Carol Welsman Inclined

welcarmusic WMCD 363 (ADD)

Playing time: 53:05

Carol Welsman - Piano/Vocals
George Koller, Colin Barrett, Danny Columby - Bass
Mark Kelso - Drums
Rob Piltch, Kevin Breit, John Findlay - Guitars
Phil Dwyer - Soprano/Tenor Saxophones
Al Heatherington, Brian Leonard - Percussion
Synthesizers - Gordon Sheard

It's getting harder and harder to break into the overcrowded jazz recording scene, and for a young vocalist, the odds must seem especially daunting. With ingenue Diana Krall already making waves, and audiophile favorites Holly Cole and Cassandra Wilson selling recordings in great numbers, even a great talent such as Carol Welsman must have felt the odds against her. Through the formation of welcarmusic, she did what many fine and versatile musicians are turning to - self-promotion. With the quality and presentation of her second album, Inclined, Carol Welsman has succeeded brilliantly.

Carol has a beautiful and accurate voice which is sensitive to the various styles that she presents on her album. With the first track, Carol literally blows through the speakers, singing an up-tempo version of My Favorite Things. It sets a high standard of what is to follow. Other vocal highlights include Carol's gentle version of the One Note Samba - underlying her gorgeous vocal with unfailingly beautiful piano work. She sings a downright erotic version of Fever, with sophisticated changes that help erase some of the more unsavory covers I have heard. Also included is a stunning version of Alec Wilder's, I'll Be Around, and a particularly Spanish version of Chick Corea's, La Fiesta. Carol is fluent in French and Italian, and with her fluency in French, she beautifully interprets Fais Comme L'Oiseau.

With all the performances, there are none of the feelings of embarrassment that come with the affectations of so many jazz singers. Carol's intuitive style suffers none of that nonsense. Her songs are very well chosen, showcasing her diction and exemplary breath control, and give the listener insight into the wonderful lyrics. This is the real power of a communicator, and Carol Welsman has it in spades.

Carol has surrounded herself with excellence. The accompaniment work, from Toronto jazz and session virtuosi, is wonderful. They support her throughout, with very tasteful solos and a rock-solid rhythmic foundation. The solos by sax-player Phil Dwyer and flugelhorn-master Guido Basso are, in turn, swinging, subtle, and beautiful. Listen to the amazing Basso and his perfectly chosen notes in I'll Be Around. It just doesn't get any better! The rhythm section, even with slight changes in personnel from song to song, is remarkably consistent. Their playing demonstrates a difficult and under-appreciated art, while complimenting the swing and subtlety of Carol's interpretations.

The recording is warm, yet punchy, and allows the rhythmic complexities to come through. Where it really shines is in capturing the true beauty of Carol Welsman's voice. Changes in tessitura, subtle inflections, and the honesty with which she sings the lyrics will not go unnoticed.

The quality of the songs on the album speaks for itself. Unfortunately, Carol's three original numbers, while very pleasant, may not sustain interest on repeated hearings. What did grip, however, was her arrangement of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - not a tune that readily comes to mind for a sophisticated jazz treatment! She does her great arrangement so beautifully that I predict your repeat button will get some serious wear. The "401 Singers" add the perfect backdrop to Carol's stunning vocal. With this song, "simple elegance" is the phrase that comes to mind.

Rhythm is integral to the musical success of a jazz album, and, as producer, Gord Sheard allows rhythmic energy to invade the recording. With this conception, he does Carol Welsman (who also co-produces) and her colleagues proud. As listener, you will be touched by the beauty of Carol's voice, and as participant, your fingers will be snapping in all tempos. What more could you ask for?

-- Anthony Kershaw