Carol Welsman says she hasn’t been out West in a long while. It’s an odd thing to say for someone who lives in Los Angeles.

But the six-time Juno Award-nominated, self-managed jazz vocalist puts it in context: “I’ve lived in California since 2003, in a glorious place on top of a hill with beautiful views very close to the Santa Monica Mountain Wildlife Area. Beautiful. I’m from Toronto and I do still work more in that part of the country, rather than Western Canada. So it’s good to be coming back to B.C. with an album that I’m really excited about.”

That album is the well-reviewed Alone Together. It’s a collection of fresh takes on standards and not-so standards that were recorded in New York. It also features bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Lewis Nash, trumpeter Wallace Roney, guitarist Jay Azzolina and percussionist Steven Kroon.

Why did she choose to work with a New York City crew when she’s on the other coast?

“Although it once was, L.A. is not a jazz town, it’s a movie town,” Welsman says. “As I found out from a few Grammy-nominated friends of mine, there is still quite a stigma about New York being where the real jazz is. My producer wanted me to do the album there, so that I could come full circle back to strong jazz roots and be seen being that way.”

Besides the new album, Welsman is celebrating another career milestone: She is a decade cancer-free. After getting a clean bill of health from her oncologist, she decided to go public with the news she had kept under wraps from almost everyone but her closest family members and a small coterie of trusted confidants.

“I went for a biopsy and the doctor said he would only call if there was a problem, and he rang me as I was heading on stage to perform at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival,” Welsman says. “I’ve never done a concert that numb, and the long story short is that I was extremely lucky to have ductal carcinoma in situ, which is a pre-cancer that, if left undiscovered, turns into full-blown breast cancer.”

The brush with mortality was an eye-opener for the artist. One of the reasons she kept it quiet was because her father intuited that the word “cancer” could be misconstrued and blown out of proportion by bookers and so forth, leading to a loss of income. Welsman didn’t want people to think she might not be around to fulfil commitments.

“Cancer is a really nasty word in the entertainment business,” she says. “There is a lot of negativity around it and people can get things wrong.”

Welsman continued to work while undergoing light radiation treatment following her operation. As years passed, she became used to keeping the information quiet, even from siblings.

“As time went on, I learned to leave the stress on the back burner and focus on what matters,” she says. “We didn’t have cancer history in the family and I sort of believe that the always on the go, constant stress of my chosen profession played a key role in me getting it. One of the reasons I want to talk about it now is the importance of early detection and how you have to make the time in your schedule to get the tests run.”

Standing up to be counted among the survivors feels good — as does going back to her traditional jazz roots on Alone Together.

Though celebrated for her Latin-tinged numbers, bossa nova and grooves, Welsman went another direction for Alone Together. For one song, she went back to the Berklee School of Music School, where she studied in her teens, and also launched into a heady exploration of jazz classics.

“The Charlie Parker tune Disappointed was one that a singer at the school performed in concert, and I learned it from her and then just left it,” she says. “I had this whole list of songs which had been done live over the years but never recorded and decided to pursue them. Also, I wanted songs written by jazz musicians, so there was the McCoy Tyner song or an Oscar Peterson song.”

Welsman has used her songwriting talents to pen pop tunes for singers such as Celine Dion, Ray Charles and The Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger. She is well aware of the tendency of vocalists to over-sing and keenly sensitive to jazz vocalists who sometimes go to great lengths to showcase their every chop in a single song. Alone Together benefits from her restrained, respectful takes on the material. Welsman is not about to sing a line without thinking about it.

“I remember when I was working with top-10 songwriter Romano Musumarra and had an important lesson in lyrics,” she says. “We were writing a song called Baby Come Easy for Ray Charles and it had a line, ‘I need you beside me/to hold me/to guide me,’ and he said there was no way that Charles would sing it because he was blind, and he was completely right. You really need to consider all these things in writing and performing.”

Where: Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, 6450 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby
When: Friday, April 8, 8 p.m.

Article by Stuart Derdeyn
Original Article

Carol’s 2015 release, “Alone Together,” reviewed by Christopher Loudon in Jazz Times January/February 2016.

Though Carol Welsman’s lengthy career has been liberally dotted with fine albums, she reaches a lofty new plateau with Alone Together. It’s a well-traveled route. Many of the past century’s foremost jazz and jazzinfluenced pop singers didn’t find their sweet spot, their defining sound, until middle age—Fitzgerald, McRae, Sinatra, Tormé and Bennett among them. As with those masters, Welsman’s interpretive and stylistic maturation evinces a seeming effortlessness, an organic oneness with each song.

Welsman’s flowering extends to her scat skills, lightly but winningly exercised across a lithe “Day by Day,” and her deft navigation of the Eddie Jefferson vocalese masterpiece “Disappointed,” based on Charlie Parker’s “Oh, Lady Be Good” solo. With stellar support from bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Lewis Nash and trumpeter Wallace Roney, joined by guitarist Jay Azzolina on four tracks, Welsman divides the rest of her elegant playlist between sturdy chestnuts and less-familiar standards. Highlights among the latter: a shimmering treatment of Frank Loesser’s romantic Cuban travelogue, “Sand in My Shoes,” winningly accented by guest percussionist Steven Kroon, and “Killing Time,” Carolyn Leigh and Jule Styne’s heartrending ode to post-breakup loneliness. Least known among her 11 selections is “The Blues Are Out of Town,” a hip delight, crafted by the late (and underappreciated) singer-pianist Joe Derise, that Welsman resurrects with jubilant verve.

Review by Christopher Loudon

Read/Download review here

Canadian jazz pianist and vocalist Carol Welsman unveils her eleventh album as leader with the audacious Alone Together where she’s never alone and altogether very spicy and splendid on vocals as well as on the keys. The album contains a superb selection of time-honored standards like Sammy Cahn’s “Day By Day,” Rodgers & Hammerstein’s oft-recorded “It Might As Well Be Spring,” Duke Ellington’s classic “I Didn’t Know About You” and of course, the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz 1932 title song, “Alone Together” among many others. A recipient of many Canadian Juno Awards nominations for several of her previous ten albums, Welsman, a former Toronto native, now embraces the standards from her new base and home in the Hollywood Hills central region of the City of Los Angeles.

The songstress adds her lush cushy vocals to a new interpretation of jazz and classic standards that comes off quiet well here especially, because she assembles an A-list of players that also provide their own imprint on the music making this a vocal jazz project bolstered by excellent instrumentals. Drummer Lewis Nash and trumpeter Wallace Roney are both pronounced on the opening “Day By Day” where bassist of note Rufus Reid also weighs in as the vocalist does some swinging scatting. Borrowing lyrics from the late great cabaret singer Bobby Short, Welsman belts out the song “Sand in My Shoes” with gusto with a little help from guitarist Jay Azzolina, and percussionist Steven Kroon.

Delivering a fresh new treatment of an old warn-out classic, the familiar title song undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts with Nash pounding the drums and the vocalist pounding the keys, some high-note reaching and more scatting in a great arrangement of the standard. One of the many beautiful songs on this disc is, “You Taught My Heart to Sing” where Welsman takes the Dianne Reeves lyrics and puts a new spin on it assisted by a humble bass line solo from Reid and some engaging guitar riffs from Azzolina.

The blues are in order on the swinging “The Blues Are Out of Town,” featuring some nice horn play from Roney, while Ellington’s immortal love song “I Didn’t know About You” is voiced softly and gentle as it was penned to be. Vocalist and pianist Welsman goes it alone on the Carolyn Leigh/Jule Stein finale singing softly and playing a tender chords befitting the tender tune “Killing Time.” For those who can appreciate the splendor of the standards, Carol Welsman’s Alone Together is an impressive vocal jazz album that captures the music of the ages and the emotions of love songs forged here by the rich lush vocals of a beautiful singer and a talented pianist all in the same person.

Review by Edward Blanco
Read/Download review here

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At least two of the other vocalists featured in this set of reviews are also trained pianists; however, only Carol Welsman actually plays keyboard on her album. It’s clear throughout her disc Alone Together that her vocal and piano styles are closely intertwined. On the opening track, Day by Day, she scats in unison with her piano lines, and the harmonically astute modulations in It Might As Well Be Spring could only come from a piano-centric musician. Yet on the first chorus of Sand in My Shoes, the piano temporarily retreats and we can hear Welsman’s flexible approach to rhythm and intimate delivery of the lyrics. Welsman’s audacious a cappella introduction to the title track is a virtual duet in itself as she alternates between lyrics and scat. She displays remarkable diction on Disappointed, Eddie Jefferson’s lyricized version of Charlie Parker’s famous JATP solo on Oh, Lady Be Good, breaks your heart with an intense reading of If the Moon Turns Green and swings with vigor on The Blues Are Out of Town. The slightly husky quality of Welsman’s voice might recall Diana Krall, but Welsman clearly offers more inventive approaches and interpretations than her fellow Canadian pianist/vocalist (incidentally, Welsman started her career in Toronto, but she’s lived in the Hollywood Hills for the past decade). Unlike the other CDs in this survey, Welsman traveled to New York to record her album, hiring the remarkable rhythm team of Rufus Reid and Lewis Nash (who are both in exquisite form). The underrated trumpeter Wallace Roney plays several fine solos on this album and guitarist Jay Azzolina enhances the rhythm section on three tracks, and plays superb obbligatos on the album’s best track, a vocal-piano/guitar/bass version of Duke Ellington’s I Didn’t Know About You. Alone Together is a superb introduction to Carol Welsman’s intimate vocal and piano style.

Review by Thomas Cunniffe

Carol Welsman is the beautiful, blonde and altogether superb Canadian jazz singer/pianist who is NOT Diana Krall. She calls this disc [ALONE TOGETHER] her “truest to the jazz art form to date” which, aside from the odd formality of the locution, is inarguable. That’s the kind of thing that will happen when your band is composed of trumpet player Wallace Roney, bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Lewis Nash and guitarist Jay Azzolina. She has her own way around a standard and always has. Her singing won’t remind you of anyone, unlike Krall who sometimes sounds like Joni Mitchell and sometimes sounds like Julie London.) She performs jazz musician favorites like It Might As Well Be Spring, My Ship and the freely conceived title tune, one of the most traditional of “jazz naturals” in the American Song Book. But outside that repertoire she is equally good too. And when she scats, she does it with lusty authority. Three and a half stars.

Review by Jeff Simon

The Globe & Mail – Reflections
by SHANNON MONEO
Special to The Globe and Mail

Carol Welsman – Havergal College, Toronto

Raised in a musical family in Toronto, Ms. Welsman has been a musician and singer since she was a child. After spending several years in Europe, she returned to Canada where her jazz career took off. A six-time Juno nominee and winner of Berklee College of Music’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the multi-lingual Ms. Welsman has just released her 11th album, Alone Together.

School recollections

“I had such a great experience. Classes had a maximum of 20 students. In Grade 7, we read Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad. The subject matter was so advanced. The demands on excellence were very high. There was a lot of peer pressure. You had to test into school. In the beginning, I really struggled, but I soon caught up.

“There was a great sense of camaraderie, a sense of togetherness that I never felt at another school. There was a team effort, team spirit for everything. It stays with you for life.

“When I get up on stage, I don’t script my introductions to songs. I tell stories, make jokes. I credit the school for giving me the confidence to do that.”