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Carol Welsman On Piano Jazz

In this session, multilingual singer and pianist Carol Welsman takes Piano Jazz on a musical journey through South American grooves, European sophistication and the Great American Songbook. Welsman has been nominated for multiple Juno awards (Canada's Grammys) and speaks and sings in Spanish, Italian, French, English and Portuguese with flawless pronunciation. She accompanies her singing with her own arrangements and writes original music, as well. Here, she joins guest host Jon Weber for a set including tunes by Peggy Lee, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins.

Welsman demonstrates her multiple talents by accompanying her own singing in Peggy Lee's "I Like Men." Welsman sings contralto, the lower register for the female voice, and she's in good company among the other husky-voiced women of jazz: Shirley Horn, Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall, to name a few.

"There's a lot of sparkle in the lower register," Welsman says, as she polishes "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" to a shine, perfectly capturing the sentiment of the tune with her sublime vocals and piano.

Finding A Musical Language

Welsman lays down the bossa nova groove in Jobim's "One Note Samba" and sings the Portuguese vocal as Weber fills in piano solos.

"How many non-Brazilians really understand how to play this stuff? You really understand the grooves perfectly," Weber says. "And as a skilled arranger, you discover harmonic potential in places I would never dream of looking."

Welsman further illustrates the point in her arrangement of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

"It's really a question of how I can work a version of a song I really like into the jazz repertoire," Welsman says. "Ultimately, is there something in the song that speaks to me?"

Guest host Weber continues the Brazilian theme by inviting Welsman to call the key in another Jobim tune, "Anos Dourados." And Welsman takes the standard "Beyond the Sea" back across the pond to its roots in the south of France with a faithful rendition of the original, "La Mer," written by Charles Trenet.

"I think there is a connection between being a musician and a linguist," Welsman says. "Because of the musical ear, it's easier for musicians to pick up languages."

The lesson in international jazz continues with "Estate." Welsman accompanies her vocal in Italian, but the smoldering emotion of this love song is universal.

Emoting The Lyric

The session returns stateside with a new arrangement of "What a Fool Believes," written by two all-American songwriters: Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. Welsman's dark chords and smoky vocals emphasize the complex emotion of the lyric, which is often overshadowed by the pop hook in the original. And guest host Weber accompanies Welsman's fragile, pensive vocal in "There's No Such Thing as Love" to end this Piano Jazz session.

Originally recorded Dec. 14, 2009. Originally aired April 27, 2010.

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Grant Jackson