For Canadian born, six-time Juno Award nominee Carol Welsman, one of the deepest autobiographical albums in her treasured jazz canon is her 2012 masterpiece Journey, in which she expressed her passion for traveling and multiple cultures. Throughout her storied, 30-plus year career, she’s become a true citizen of the world, jazzing fans everywhere from New York and Tokyo to Italy and Brazil. She’s also lived for years in France, Italy and LA and speaks and has sung beautifully in multiple languages.
So perhaps it was only a matter of time before the multi-faceted songwriter and vocal interpreter’s fascinating, multi-cultural (lower case) journey would lead to the kind of glorious immersion into all things Latin that she shares on her 13th album Dance With Me. As she says on her Kickstarter page, where she raised over $22,000 towards the making and marketing of the project, “I’ve performed all over the world and fans always come up to me afterwards to say how much they specifically enjoyed the Latin songs I’ve played. That’s always stayed with me.”
In that light, those fans can enjoy this sassy yet sensual, deeply intimate yet exuberantly freewheeling collection as if it were a personal gift rewarding their loyalty and enthusiasm. Much ado will be made about Welsman’s aim for rich authenticity leading her to work with producer Oscar Hernandez, a 4-time Grammy winning composer renowned for his founding of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and a truly storied array of greats with Colombian, Puerto Rican, Mexican and Cuban ancestry - including Colombian born Justo Almario (saxophones, flute), Joey de Leon (percussion), Rene Camacho (bass) and the singer’s longtime drummer, Cuban born Jimmy Branly.
As you groove and flow along with the wide array of indigenous grooves (salsa, bolero, cha cha cha, Afro-Cuban, calypso) and percussive and joyfully danceable gems like the opening track “You and the Night and the Music,” the flute spiced “Time to Dance Cha Cha Cha” (featuring Welsman riffing off an energetic vocal “coro”) and gleefully defiant “I Won’t Dance,” you’ll marvel at the way she’s so artfully adapted so many popular Latin standards into English, sung with her stylish phrasing.
One of the most engaging tunes is the title track and lead single, her playful English/Spanish duet with Dominican Republic born, multiple Grammy-winning superstar vocalist Juan Luis Guerra - a colorful adaptation of his hit Si Tú No Bailas Conmigo” (If You Don’t Dance With Me).” It’s also a blast hearing her takin' care of business with a cha cha moment in the sun on "A Taste of Paradise,"
penned by legendary Canadian rocker Randy Bachman.
Through all the Latin vibes, however, the one thing that shines through is the element that every Welsman album boasts – an overall sense of romance in all its many shades. Whether she’s sharing the restful escapist benefits of a buoyant tropical excursion like "Island Lullaby" or gently caressing us with the sparse, haunting “Yesterday I Heard The Rain,” her exploration of different aspects of love and romance shines through. Interestingly and perhaps appropriately, that latter song is the lone piece to feature Welsman strutting her vocal stuff in Spanish. In the future, it would be wonderful if she would take this grand Latin concept even further and record a full album in Spanish. Till then, let’s just enjoy this incredible invitation to hit the ballroom and dance with her like never before.