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.”

Written by Meaghan Baxter
Original Review

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

Downbeat Digital Edition
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It has been a learning curve …
Carol Welsman, one of Canada’s main Jazz exports, has arrived full circle with her new album; Alone Together.
Following a Top Five ranking by USA Today of all genres for her last album ‘ Reflections of Peggy Lee’, Welsman’s confidence and skill have never been so high. Being included with the likes of Barbara Streisand and Mark Knopfler tends to have that type of effect.
Please listen below as Carol explainsher mindset on the new album and how the Japanese are more ‘respectful’ of American Jazz. Carol?

Interview with Rick Keene

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

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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
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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