The Savoy Jazz label, revived last year and already flush with reissues to celebrate 60 years of recorded jazz, has invested in a single performer capable of attracting a broader-than-bebop aud — singer-pianist Carol Welsman. Making her L.A. debut at the Cinegrill, the Canadian performer is a conversationalist, the rare singer who delivers a lyric with the natural ease of a good storyteller. Her bag of tricks includes funk, bossa nova, a little singing in French and a divine reading of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” But it’s her gentleness and grace, imbued with a girl-next-door personality, that showcase her at her best.
Welsman’s enchanting debut for Savoy, “The Language of Love,” chronicles a love affair, and while only half the 14 tunes in her opening-night set appear on the disc, love songs are clearly her forte. She invested her snail-paced rendition of Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” with hushed restraint; scatted her way into a jagged “Taking a Chance on Love”; and charmed the room with a medley of “Time After Time,” the Sammy Cahn-Jules Styne standard, and “Time After Time,” the Cyndi Lauper tune. Conversely, her funky “I Got Rhythm” felt gimmicky and out of place.
Current disc was produced by Oscar Castro-Neves, and the Brazilian influence opens up much of her work, adding a consistent, tasteful airiness in the accompaniment. With guitar, bass and the expert drumming of Harvey Mason, her performance at times feels like that of a Brazilian attempting to break through in the jazz vernacular — a compliment to Welsman’s command of the material.