La chanteuse de jazz ontarienne Carol Welsman n’a pas manqué d’occasions de faire entendre son talent d’interprète par le passé, mais elle a tenté une expérience particulièrement pour son dernier album : elle a fait appel au public qui a choisi pour elle des classiques à jouer. Puis elles les a interprétés en solo, assise devant un piano. Cela donne l’album For You, littéralement enregistré pour les fans qui la suivent depuis des années et qui avaient envie de l’entendre dans un autre contexte.
Les chansons retenues sont, pour la plupart, des standards de jazz archiconnus, mais il faut accorder que Carol Welsman n’a pas fait les choses à moitié en décidant d’interpréter les chansons dans leur langue d’origine. On l’entendra donc passer de l’anglais au français, à l’espagnol, au portugais et à l’italien.
C’est Skylark qui lance l’album. On y entend tout de suite les deux éléments centraux de l’album : la belle voix chaleureuse de Carol Welsman et son jeu de piano discret, mais précis. Les pièces sont généralement assez brèves : on tourne autour de 2 à 3 minutes, ce qui est bien assez tenant compte des arrangements minimaux, et de l’absence de solos par la pianiste-chanteuse. Elle en profite pour faire de brefs clins d’œil à des chansons comme The Shadow of Your Smile, ou encore It Had to Be You.
L’album est très beau et s’écoute bien dans différents contextes où on veut faire baisser la tension, mais cela pose aussi le problème dans la mesure où toutes les chansons se ressemblent sensiblement toutes, sauf lorsqu’on change de langue. Ainsi, on se souvient de sa sobre interprétation de Les feuilles mortes, mais aussi de Besame Mucho, où elle fait exceptionnellement appel à une guitare pour l’accompagner. Elle répétera cette «exception» à quelques reprises, avec Corcovado et Garota de Ipanema. Puis il y a Ti Guarderò Nel Cuor (More), sublime de simplicité, en formule piano-voix.
La version régulière offre déjà 16 chansons, mais il existe trois chansons bonus, dont ceux qui attireront particulièrement l’attention des Québécois qui écoutent l’album : Je voudrais voir la mer et Une chance qu’on s’a. Disons qu’il aurait été surprenant que Une chance qu’on s’a ne soit pas une incontournable de l’album, tellement c’est une belle chanson.
L’album For You, rappelons-le, est composé du choix du public. Par définition, le public offre rarement de grandes surprises, optant plutôt pour le consensus. Le concept reste intéressant, mais on ne retiendra peut-être pas l’album dans quelques années, à part pour certaines de ses pistes incontournables. Et dans tous les cas, ça reste un opus qui s’écoute bien si vous avez besoin d’un petit smooth jazz qui détend l’atmosphère, chose que vous avez exactement ici.
À écouter : Besame Mucho, Corcovado, Ti Guarderò Nel Cuor (More), // Bonus : Une chance qu’on s’a
Review by Olivier Dénommée
Chanteuse d’origine torontoise, maintenant installée en Californie, Carol Welsman possède indubitablement le gène musical. Petite-fille de Frank S. Welsman, fondateur et premier chef d’orchestre de l’Orchestre symphonique de Toronto, ainsi que fille d’une professeure de piano et d’un saxophoniste, elle a grandi les oreilles baignées de musique.
For You, son onzième album, est donc loin de la carte de visite d’une chanteuse débutante qui pourrait sentir le besoin de nous en mettre plein les oreilles. Au contraire, nous avons plutôt affaire ici à un album tout en douceur, construit sur des standards jazz (et quelques surprises), en anglais, en français et en portugais, interprétés sobrement dans la formule voix et piano. Sa voix est claire et juste, et son articulation est impeccable, portée par un jeu au piano sans fioritures et ce désir d’épater la galerie que l’on peut entendre parfois chez certains musiciens qui manquent un peu d’assurance. Carol Welsman n’a clairement plus rien à prouver. Elle peut se permettre d’offrir sa musique, tout simplement.
C’est la même chose pour le répertoire offert. Les feuilles mortes, chantée dans un français presque sans accent, nous rappelle que Welsman a passé quelques années à Paris. Idem pour Les parapluies de Cherbourg et Les moulins de mon cœur, qui coulent de source. Évidement, on n’oublie pas les incontournables Corcovado, Garota de Ipanema ou My Funny Valentine, mais ce qui surprend vraiment, ce sont ces chansons qui viennent en bonus, alors que Welsman s’attaque à Je voudrais voir la mer, de Michel Rivard, et à Une chance qu’on s’a, de Jean-Pierre Ferland. Il s’agit d’un très beau clin d’œil de la chanteuse à ses origines canadiennes que de s’attaquer à deux chansons québécoises (qui sont, malheureusement, offertes en bonus lors de l’achat de l’album et qui ne sont pas disponibles ici). La surprise est agréable, comme l’est cet album, qui s’écoute d’une traite, sans effort.
Review by François Lemay
Canadian vocalist Carol Welsman, a six-time Juno Award Nominee, turned to her fans on social media to help select the tracks for this sweetly evocative new album. In an online event spanning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her website, Welsman provided 30-second sound bites of 23 solo piano/vocal tracks recorded by Japanese producer Takao Ishizuka in 2016 and asked her online following to vote for their favorites. The top 15 songs selected by voters became the program on For You.
The resulting album is an intimate affair spanning songs in multiple languages, including Spanish (“Besame Mucho”), French (“Les Feuilles Mortes”) and Italian (“Ti Guardero Nel Cuor”). But the bulk of the material is drawn from the Great American Songbook, and Welsman takes to classics like “Skylark,” “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “My Funny Valentine” from angles of adoration and invention. Her voice – satiny and emotive – drapes magnificently across the contours of “My Foolish Heart,” which she adorns with delicate clouds of piano, while on Carpenters-associated “Close To You,” she casts soaring wordless vocals into the carefree, windswept melody.
Review by Brian Zimmerman
CAROL WELSMAN/For You Solo: The great jazz vocalist may not have made the record she’s always wanted to make, but after letting fans vote for what they wanted to hear her sing, she’s made the album they wanted her to make. Up close and personal with just her and her piano, this is the classic cabaret album you have to grow into before you can make it sound as good as this does. This is a real career defining set. Killer stuff throughout.
Review by Chris Spector
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.
Carol Welsman brings her vocal and piano skills to team up with Rufus Reid/b, Lewis Nash/dr, SWallace Roney/tp, Jay Azzzolina/g and Steven Kroon/perc for some fresh takes of standards and jazz tunes. She’s got a calm and wistful voice, and it works well on the modernly swinging material such as “Day By Day” and the cozy and cymbal tapped “My Ship.” She sounds intimate with Kroon’s percussion and Azzzolina’s guitar on “Sand in My Shoes” whele she struts in high heels with Roneys trumpet on “The Blues Are Out of Town.” Her piano work is reflective on the tender and glowing “I Didn’t Know About You” and is as clear as the stars on “If The Moon Turns Green.” Lots of allure here. February 18th, 2016
Ten years ago, jazz artist Carol Welsman was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early form of breast cancer.
“I was out on tour, and I had the biopsy and the doctor said, ‘I’ll only call you if there’s a problem,’” Welsman remembers. “And sure enough, he rings half an hour before I’m going on stage. I have to say it was very eye-opening to have a brush with mortality at a young age, and I appreciate life so very much more.”
Luckily, if DCIS is caught early—as it was in Welsman’s case—it is treatable. She underwent a rigorous six-week session of radiation treatment to reduce the risk of it returning, and celebrated a decade of being cancer-free in October 2015.
“The surgeon, every time I go see him, he says, ‘Get out of my office; you’re a success story,’” she says with a laugh. “I don’t mind being kicked out of an office for something like that.”
But Welsman kept her struggle quiet, not even telling certain members of her family that she had been diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t until she reached her 10-year milestone last October that she decided to go public with the news.
“A couple of my brothers didn’t even know,” she says. “I didn’t want to tell them because I thought they might just get worried. The word ‘cancer’ is sometimes a difficult word in this business, and now I feel like I really have crossed a milestone here.”
That milestone also occurred around the time Welsman was getting ready to release her 11th studio album, Alone Together, a carefully curated selection of jazz standards and lesser-known tracks ranging from the Charlie Parker solo “Disappointed” to “It Might As Well Be Spring” and “I Didn’t Know About You.” The title itself is meaningful for Welsman, too, as it serves as a nod to her performance style: she has always accompanied herself on piano, so she was essentially alone on stage but together with the music, particularly at the beginning of her career.
“When you sing and play piano you’re able to form a sound and you’re using a special palette of colour, and I was really able to form my signature sound before the band joined in and made it that much better,” she explains. “When you add three or four musicians you suddenly have such a wealth of different colours and styles.”
Being able to accompany oneself on stage allows for a certain amount of control in terms of musical direction, and Welsman’s aforementioned style has explored a gamut ranging from Latin influences to more traditional jazz nuances—the latter of which is prevalent on Alone Together.
“When I spoke with the producer [Corey Allen] he said he really wanted me to concentrate and go back to my jazz roots and do a very traditional jazz album, which is unlike a lot of the previous albums that I’ve done,” Welsman says. “I went back into my repertoire when I was at Berklee College, back when I was 17 or 18 years old. And I literally looked through all of the songs I was given to learn by my piano teacher or that I sang for recitals.
“It was really a question of digging back into that file and finding some signs that were real gems and not over-recorded,” she continues. “Like ‘Disappointed,’ that song, which is a Charlie Parker solo, things that are real jazz things—nobody can say, ‘Oh, this is from a show on Broadway.’ This is a saxophone solo, somebody put lyrics to it and nobody’s ever sung it.”
Once she had rediscovered some of these old favourites, Welsman set to work interpreting them in different ways, such as adding new time signatures to the pieces, or artistic flourishes on the piano.
“Usually the lyrics of the songs suggest a lot to me,” she explains. “You actually don’t have to go very far to find some really great ideas that turn into colours in the music.”
Do you have to be a great scat singer to be a great jazz singer? Neither Frank Sinatra nor Billie Holiday scatted much, but both are among the greatest jazz singers of all time. Still, brilliant vocal improvisation sure doesn’t hurt, as the Canadian-born singer/pianist Carol Welsman proves on several tracks of her new album, Alone Together. Welsman, a six-time Juno nominee with an international following, scats in a way that discloses a keen harmonic sense and complements her highly proficient piano playing. She combines the two in her uptempo, hard-bop treatment of the Sinatra standard “Day By Day,” scatting along with a soaring, rewarding piano solo. And her a cappella scat introduction to the title tune is a knockout. Great scatting is just one of the tools in Welsman’s arsenal on this, her 11th album. Backed by a stellar band—bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Lewis Nash, trumpeter Wallace Roney and guitarist Jay Azzolina—she displays unerring taste with her choice of material, bringing a spot-on reading of Eddie Jefferson’s “Disappointed” (a vocalese version of Charlie Parker’s solo on “Lady, Be Good”) and an exquisite version of “Killing Time” by Jule Styne and Carolyn Leigh.
Review by Allen Morrison