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
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
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.
We had such a good time at the Cotton Club, Japan- 8 sold out shows! Thanks to the fans and staff for making our Christmas so special. The audiences loved the jazzy Carols. The band was hot, thanks to Pierre Coté on guitar, Rémi-Jean LeBlanc on bass, and Jimmy Branly on drums! Click here to see Photos from the Cotton Club
Carol was been selected as the Sounds of Timeless Jazz Artist of the Month, December 2015! Check out the full article here.
Carol’s recent appearance at Birdland was covered and reviewed by Times Square Chronicles’ entertainment journalist, Magda Katz. Check out the full report here.