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Festivals Report

Carol Welsman @ Jazz Bistro – TOJazzFest

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Carol Welsman at the Jazz Bistro

The Jazz Trio: Carol Welsman At The Jazz Bistro
June 30, 2017 – TD Toronto Jazz Festival

Carol Welsman, singer and pianist, in an intimate setting at the Jazz Bistro. Yes, three Canadian musical treasures under one roof as Welsman is joined by bassist Neil Swainson and guitarist Reg Schwager.

The Jazz Bistro welcomed Carol Welsman for two shows as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. A packed house was on hand for the late show, the only room was near the bar and that is where my guest and I headed. Welsman’s back was to us, however her voice took front and centre. Close circuit video monitors gave us a good view of the stage and Welsman made sure to include all of the audience with an occasional nod in our direction.

Carol Welsman is a fine jazz pianist, a composer, and an accomplished Juno award winning vocalist. She has at last count, eleven recordings. Her most recent  released in 2016 Alone Together. Welsman is a multi linguist, she sings in at least three languages, English, French and Portuguese, and likely a few others.

Welsman has a  beautiful stage presence, partly based on her striking good looks, reinforced with her confidence and her friendly stage manner. Her voice is great, smooth, powerful and ever so pleasing. She controls the audience with ease, light banter from the stage and a joyful personality. She welcomed a group of Spanish speaking South American tourists and generally takes time to notice her audience. There were stories of her travels and reminisces of home in the USA and home in Toronto.

I have witnessed Welsman perform in concert halls and night clubs with trios, solo and in many different configurations. She can play the role of the singer or the singer and the accompanist piano player. On piano she can swing through a Bossa Nova or comp with the best of them on a 12 bar blues or a romantic ballad. A fine musician and a delightful vocalist with a pleasing mezzo-soprano voice.

Carol Welsman started her show solo. She sat at the piano facing most of the audience, she played piano with elegance and sang beautifully through a passionate tune “Alone Together”.  On her second song she was joined by incomparable bassist Neil Swainson, together they played a swinging duet. The third song brought Reg Schwager to the stage and as a trio the group performed “It Might As Well Be Spring”. The first of many opportunities for Schwager to shine with guitar breaks of originality and elements of Pass, Ellis and Hall, all coming to mind.

Welsman and Schwager, Bossa Nova this night with a swinging version of  “Samba do Aviao” a cool “Corcovado” all dedicated to our happy visitors from Latin America.  Other tunes from Alone Together that were played with passion “Lady B Good” solo by Carol Welsman, and the moody and dream like “My Foolish Heart”.  With more swing and a little bit of scatting on “My Favourite Things” as well as “Fly Me To The Moon”, “When My Ship Comes In”, “Sand In My Shoes” and the “Blues Are Out Of Town”.

A thoroughly enjoyable concert, the audience seemed to agree with an extended applause upon Welsman’s announcement of Good Night. As for me, a  great way to end my Toronto Jazz Festival.

I found out after the show that Carol Welsman has a new CD coming out soon, For You. You might even be able to get in on picking the songs if you hurry.

An independent journalist, based in Toronto, Canada. A professional musician and a fan of music, dance and the arts. I have written short stories, lyrics, poetry and reviews. I have been published in numerous online webzines. I’ve taught drumming and played in bands; I have felt the passion to create. I enjoy expressing that passion, the artistic experience, in words, reporting on the shows and musical experiences that I have witnessed.

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Festivals Report

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 24 to July 3, 2022

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TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2022

10 Days of Free Shows — Say What!

My TD Toronto Jazz Festival started mid festival, Tuesday, June 28th, early evening. It was all about Juno winners and nominees. The first act, Sammy Jackson and her quartet performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Sammy Jackson won a Juno for vocal jazz album of the year. Her band, made up of Jackson on Vocals, Thomas Fleming – guitar, Chris Pruden – keys, Mark Godfrey – bass and Ian Wright playing the drums. Jackson sang songs from her award winning 5-track EP With You, featuring original compositions. Sammy Jackson added some songs from her 2016 release, the 5-track EP Take Me Back, to make for an enjoyable hour long performance. Jackson’s songs are about joy, vulnerability, long distance relationships, and love. Jackson blends jazz, R&B, soul and pop with her beautiful voice.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Jackson covers an impressive vocal range, and her phrasing is delightful. Jackson shines on the ballads. I especially enjoyed “Bad Reception” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Sammy Jackson concluded her show with one dedicated to her son, entitled “Chuckie”, a toddler who happened to be in the audience and made a cameo at the front of the stage. This tune was upbeat and had a happy go lucky, dance groove to get everybody moving.

I spoke with Jackson after the show, I asked her if she noticed the Juno enhancing her career? She said, “I think it’s why I’m here. The Juno increased my exposure. So that’s great. Thank you Juno!”

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Kellylee Evans performed the evening of the 28th and I was not going to miss her concert at the TD Main Stage. Kellylee Evans was in great vocal form and in accompaniment with a wonderful band made up of Joel Visentin – keyboards, Mark Godfrey – bass, Rich Grossman – guitar, and Ian Wright on drums.

Evans has suffered some serious physical setbacks in her recovery from a tragic accident in 2013. She has an injury that is effecting her ability to walk and even to stand. She performed the show from a sitting position.

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Evans puts her heart and soul into her singing. She is a Juno winner for vocal jazz album of the year for Nina, released in 2010. One of my favourite vocal jazz albums.

This evening, Evans performed songs from her new 5-song EP Green Light as well as many others. A beautiful, dynamic, high energy performance—even from her seated position.

Alexis Baró Quintet - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Alexis Baró Quintet – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I started off Wednesday, the 29th with the amazing trumpet playing of Alexis Baró. The Alexis Baró Quintet was performing at the TD Stage at Festival Village in Yorkville.

I really enjoy Baró’s trumpet playing. I think he is one of the most expressive players in the Afro Cuban style. Baró performed songs from his new album Ma Raiz.

Larnell Lewis Band - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I only stuck around for a few of the songs as Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis were performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove, a few streets south. It is most unfortunate to have these scheduling conflicts. However, It is amazing to have so much talent at one festival.

Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis performed on the TD Main Stage Wednesday the 29th – a dynamite performance. The band, made up of Larnell Lewis – drums, Joy Lapps – steelpan, Jeremy Ledbetter – piano, Elmer Ferrer – guitar, Rob Christian – woodwinds, Andrew McAnsh – trumpet and Marc Manhertz – bass.

Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

“Rejoice” was the title of one of the songs performed and to hear this band is to rejoice. When I listen to Larnell Lewis play I feel the pulse through my soul. I think this is the most heartful drummer I have ever heard. His music is uplifting, powerful, dynamic, his beats, fills and rhythms, just outstanding. He shares his heart with the audience, nothing is left on the stage. 

Now to get ready for a return to Koerner Hall, after 2 years of isolation, for one of the few ticketed events, the Gregory Porter band. Excited? Yes, indeed!

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