Welsman tries an orchestra for size

She's been singing for a while, and she's toured extensively throughout the world, but Canadian-born jazz singer and pianist Carol Welsman still calls herself the new kid on the block. Welsman, who will be appearing at the Glendale Alex Theatre on May 10 with the Glendale Pops Orchestra, said it's because the "whole pop scene" is new to her.

"This is my first time out [with a pops orchestra]," Welsman said in a phone interview. "I don't do it every day. I have a jazz quartet."

She also has a raft of awards, including a couple of Best Jazz Pianist and Vocalist awards from the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards (now called the WAVE Awards, which are the equivalent to the Grammys). "But to be invited to be backed like a beautiful orchestra like this is a real honor," Welsman said.

Welsman comes from a family of music. Her grandfather, Frank S. Welsman, was the founder and first conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her mother taught classical piano, and her father played the clarinet and sax. Two of her brothers play in a rock band on the side at weddings and other events, and her oldest brother scores music for film and television.

Her first introduction to the jazz world came when she accompanied her father to Big Band concerts at the age of 12. And while she "didn't understand" the music, she found that she "wanted to." Her understanding of jazz came when in her teens. "Someone influential with a huge record collection introduced me to all the great singers."

However, when Welsman went to the Berklee College of Music, it was with the intention of studying piano. She "got the bug" to sing when she was invited to perform with the jazz band at school. "I thought, 'Wow, this is great!'" Welsman said. From then on she always knew she was going to sing jazz and play piano.

"It seemed like such a sophisticated form of music," Welsman said. "I love Bossa Nova and Brazilian music."

So while Welsman practiced her jazz art in one room, in the background she would hear Led Zeppelin being played by her brothers in another room.

In addition to her prolific production of albums (she's produced nine since 1995, and another will be recorded in the fall in New York), she also has written songs for such performers as Celine Dion and Ray Charles. She's included originals on her own albums, but mostly they are filled with cover standards such as "Cheek to Cheek," "Fever," and "Fly Me to the Moon."

On May 10, Welsman will be performing a selection of her favorites from her albums in the show titled, "Hidden Treasure," at the Alex, which will be conducted by Grammy Award-winning Matt Catingub, the artistic director of the Glendale Pops.

In a review of her most recent album, "Journey," Jazz Weekly declared of Welsman's singing: "As for her delivery, she can take a lyric and hold it, clip it, gasp it, sigh it and coax in ways that will make you howl in ecstasy."

The concert also serves as a benefit for the charities Ascensia and the San Gabriel division of Habitat for Humanity. The Glendale-based Ascensia provides housing and services to the homeless. Habitat for Humanity helps low-income families help buy their own home, as well as helps low-income families and veterans with home repair.

Glendale Arts, which manages the Alex Theatre and its programs, will donate part of the proceeds to both charities if tickets are purchased at these links: Habitat for Humanity: bit.ly/sgvhabitatbenefit and Ascensia: bit.ly/ascenciabenefit.

What: "Hidden Treasures," with Carol Welsman and the Glendale Pops

Where: Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand Blvd., Glendale.

When: Saturday, May 10, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $35-$55

More info: 818-243-2539, boxoffice@alextheatre.org


LAURA TATE is a frequent contributor to Marquee.

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