Currently closing in on 30 years as one of jazz’s most stylistically and culturally diverse jazz singers, vocal interpreters and pianists, six time Juno Award nominee Carol Welsman has occasionally tied the songs on her collection neatly together with a specific overall theme as she did on two of her best in the last decade – sharing her passion for travel and cultures on Journey (2012) and her splendid immersion into Latin Jazz on Dance With Me (2020).
Yet even when she’s more eclectic and freewheeling in her choices of material – as she shares on her latest coolly cosmopolitan, multi-lingual (English, French, Spanish) latest collection Fourteen – Welsman is always offering an intimate opening to the music that has literally jazzed her life. As her first post-pandemic recording, she seems determined to help soothe the complex wave of emotions that rock our worlds every day, with an eye and ear towards lifting our exhausted spirits - starting with the playfully swinging, exuberantly optimistic romp through Nat King Cole’s “Pick Yourself Up.”
She's also keen on reminding us that life can still be joyful and romantic with three charming tunes sung beautifully in French, including the lush, dreamy closer, the Rodgers & Hammerstein waltz “C’est le printemps” (which the singer memorably recorded in English as “It Might As Well Be Spring” on her 2015 album Alone Together. Her Spanish on the balmy bossa twist on the Mexican originated “Somos Novios” – more familiar to us as “It’s Impossible” – is equally delightful and sweetly infectious. One of the most unique stories connected to the choice of material on Fourteen is her sassy and hipster samba-fied invitation to escape on “Come Fly With Me,” which gets extra buoyancy from her percussive piano, breezy, inventive scatting and lively interaction with her Quebec based band, including guitarist Pierre Côté and bassist Rémi-Jean LeBlanc.
It’s hard to believe she originally recorded it for her self-titled 2007 album but it didn’t make the final cut; fortunately Sammy Cahn’s son Steve felt it was the best version of the song since Sinatra and Welsman felt now was the appropriate moment. Coming after these anxious few years, its sparkling uplift indeed hits the heartstrings just right.
She likewise lifts our spirits throughout with more of her remarkable scatting, from the sweet breezes she creates in duet with Côté on “I Concentrate on You” and the peppy improvisational vocal whimsy a few minutes into the lighthearted “The Night Has 1000 Eyes” to the sly duality with LeBlanc’s plucky bass on “Sometimes I’m Happy.” Balancing the overall upbeat energy of Fourteen are two more melancholy tunes that showcase her trademark emotional expressiveness as a balladeer, “If You Could See Me Now” and the Peggy Lee originated “Black Coffee.”
Also a gifted songwriter, she graces us with a lone original (“Be My Valentine”) which connects to the dominant forward thinking vibe of the album. The Canadian born, L.A.based Welsman is a true treasure who, over a quarter century into her career, never fails to draw us into her splendor and surprise filled autobiography