Helen Welch will leave you Spellbound
THE VOCALIST HELEN WELCH performs throughout world, performing entertaining shows of her own creation with her trio, with big bands, with concert bands, and with symphony orchestras. She has built an impassioned fan base in northeast Ohio since relocating here from her native England in 2003. Her brand new recording, Spellbound, presents an inspired collection of music, including fresh arrangements of songs by Lennon and McCartney, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Michel LeGrand, Dolly Parton, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and Chick Corea. The recording also features original songs written by Ms. Welch. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat with her about the new recording.
Why did you decide to put out this CD now? While I have been hounded by fans asking when I was going to record a new CD, I have had no inspiration to record for quite some time. My dad passed away in September 2015 after being very ill for about six months. As we celebrated his 94 years of life, I vividly recalled his passion for music. I was suddenly hit with the inspiration and motivation to record again. This recording is really in memory of him.
The musicians on the recording sound fantastic. How long have you been working with your trio? I met the wonderful bassist Bryan Thomas very early on after arriving from England, and we’ve been working together for about nine years. The pianist Joe Leaman came on the scene about six years ago and we’ve been working together seriously for around four years. Anthony Taddeo on drums is our newest addition. He has been with us for about 16 months.
Why did you decide to add the guitarist Joe Parker on a few tracks? Originally, the whole CD was just going to be piano trio, with some auxiliary percussion. While going through all of the possibilities, I decided I wanted to record Chick Corea’s “Spain”. My dad was a big jazz lover, as well as a great flamenco guitarist. I studied flamenco dance. I’ve been surrounded and passionate about that whole genre of music for a long time. I thought that “Spain” lent itself to being a wonderful vehicle for the flamenco sound I so love and associate with my dad, growing up listening to him practice and play. When I met Joe Parker, I played my ‘air’ flamenco guitar for him, which I’m really good at, and he ‘got it’ straight away and played exactly what I was hearing in my head. I wanted palmas, the characteristic flamenco hand clapping. I wanted that whole Spanish vibe, and I love what the musicians came up with. I know Dad would love it!
What do you want the listeners to experience when they listen to your music? When I listen to music, I want to be emotionally moved. I get really excited when I hear music that touches me; that immediately makes me want to play it over, again and again. I hope this music will evoke a spectrum of emotions and that people will want to play it over and over again.
What style is the music on this recording? When it comes to being pigeon-holed into a single musical style, I’ve been told that I ‘slip through the cracks’. I have very eclectic tastes. My dad had me listen to jazz artists like Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and Ella Fitzgerald, but also to lots of country music. My Mum was a light opera singer singing Gilbert and Sullivan, but she also sang and appeared in many classic musical theatre shows including South Pacific, Carousel, Oklahoma and Show Boat. I developed my own musical tastes from this foundation of early influences. I always loved Ella, but also loved the soulful voices of Aretha Franklin, George Benson, and Eva Cassidy. I loved the musicality and swing of Mel Tormé and Sammy Davis, so I’m a big mish-mash of all of that! What is my style? I would say soulful-pop fused with some jazz elements.
What sets this CD apart from the others you have done? Yikes, that is a tough question, indeed! I’m very proud of my earlier recordings One Dream (2006) with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and my quartet, and Forever for Now (2010). When I decided to record Spellbound and it came to picking the songs, it was like going mining for gold. I kept on sifting and singing through songs and gradually, over about ten months, I ended up with ten big, gold nuggets. They were songs that were so obvious, it was easy. I’ve absolutely loved every minute of the recording process, even the really frustrating moments. It’s been the most amazing journey.
What is your favorite track on the CD? That is like asking a mother who her favorite child is! But if I had to only sing one of the songs, it would probably be Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”.
What is next for Helen Welch? I was crazy enough to have recorded a brand new Christmas CD, Home for Christmas, while we were doing Spellbound, so I shall be getting ready for it’s big launch at the Akron Civic Theatre on November 20th.
Helen Welch’s recordings are available online at Amazon, I-tunes, and CDBaby.
A complete listing of performances can be found at her website, helenwelch.com.