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The announcement of the “Jazz Divas” concert at the Flato Markham Theatre last Friday night had promised audiences that “the raw, versatile power of three Canadian jazz greats will spirit you away” and that “together this divas-trio promises to deliver a dynamic experience that defies expectations.” The concert fully delivered on its promise. And then some.

The night opened with Venezuela-born Eliana Cuevas, the accomplished singer-songwriter whose powerful voice has been quite accurately described as skillfully acting as both storyteller and instrument.” Cuevas, who has been called one of Canada’s top five female jazz singers, more than earned her place as one of the incredibly talented Diva trio that night with her performance, representing Latin jazz with power, energy and amazing musicality, and in her native Spanish, to the sold out crowd. And if her simultaneously soaring and melodious voice wasn’t enough to wow the crowds and win them over, her interpretation of Jeremy Bedletter’s intricately complex “El Tucusito” showcases perfectly the incredible range of her voice and her vocal control and musicality in front of a live audience. Absolutely flawless and a treat indeed.

El Tucusito – Eliana Cuevas

Switching it over to a perfect marriage of jazz, country and a little bit of folk music, Barbra Lica eased her way onto the stage and just as easily immediately captivated the audience with the melodious sound of her voice, offering a perfect mix of her own creations from her latest album “You’re Fine” (an album that you, Alma Latina readers, really do want to do yourself a favour and purchase immediately. You will thank me, I promise you), but also a couple of great classics that she totally made her own in that soothing and sweet-sounding voice of hers.

Lica is one of those performers that you want to go see live, whether you’re a jazz lover or just appreciate music for the joy of it. She is that good. And she may be young but has the poise and fluidity on stage of someone who has been on the scene for years and years. On Friday night, she left the enthralled audience wanting more… and we are sure there is a lot more to see of this extremely talented young singer for years to come.

The Food Song – Barbra Lica

Before I do – Barbra Lica

After intermission the night’s headliner came on stage. Carol’s talent, musicality and professionalism were evident from the get-go. She and the accompanying musicians grabbed the audience’s attention within seconds. The greatly talented singer and pianist’s performance included some great jazz classics, but also a couple of very well known Christmas songs. She even got the audience involved during her performance of the Ella Fitzgerald classic “Cheek to Cheek”. The highlight for me, really, was watching her perform the “Samba do Aviao” in perfect-sounding Portuguese. You see, Welsman is fluent in French, Italian and Portuguese, in addition to her native English, and she performs just as easily in every language.

Welsman, whose bio drescribes her as “an internationally acclaimed singer and pianist whose expressive vocal styling and dynamic stage presence have captivated audiences around the world…and has sold over 60,000 CDs in Canada alone– something few jazz/pop artists in Canada have experienced,” has such a brilliant presence on stage, but she also makes everything look so effortless, that her voice, her piano-playing ability and the way she and her band (all incredibly talented musicians) play together all happens with such an easy flow that you feel as if you’re in your living room, just jamming with a few friends, telling a few stories and playing some good’ol jazz tunes. It was altogether a beautiful performance and Carol, along with each of the musicians, gave the sold out crowd an unforgettable night of music. By the end of the night, watching all three very talented, versatile artists– all with different and individual styles– had made fans of this beautiful genre for many of us.

Samba do Aviao, Markham Jazz Fest – Carol Welsman

 

Fly me to the Moon (Volons Vers la Lune) – Carol Welsman duet with Ramon Stagnaro

Personally, as a novice into the world of jazz, and admittedly not knowing much about this complex and musically rich genre, the thing that struck me the most was how easy they all made it look– and when I say all of them I not only mean all three performers but also their accompanying musicians. You don’t have to be a professional musician to know the incredibly complexities and the difficulty of the combination of notes each musician offered, and yet it all flowed so smoothly and with such ease, and it all came together in such perfect unison, that we as an audience got lost in the magic of each of their performances. It was also quite evident how much fun each musician has in every performance. It was all a wonderful musical journey for jazz lovers and for those of us who are now just learning to enjoy this wonderful style of music. Best of all, as Welsman put it, “chick power” ruled the night with each one of the Jazz Divas winning the crowd over with their individual and very unique styles. Needless to say, we will be following closely each performer for a chance to see them again in the future. What a treat it was to see them all together on this Friday night in Markham.