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Album Review: Songs Without Words
Chris Welch
Cover image of the album Songs Without Words by Chris Welch
Songs Without Words
Chris Welch
1996 / Sweet Spot Music
42 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Chris Welch’s debut CD is a jazzy collection of eleven originals and one cover piece showcasing a variety of moods and playing styles. With Welch on piano, his ensemble is made up of Evan Buehler on vibraphone on two tracks, Rob Davis on sax on three tracks, and Michael Gotz on electric guitar on two. However, since none of the instruments overlap on tracks, the seven ensemble pieces are all duets that work exceptionally well; the remaining five pieces are solo piano. This album is very strong from start to finish, and all of the tracks are excellent. Welch gives his musicians the freedom to soar and express their own musicality, giving the pieces a wonderfully free feeling that stays fresh on each listening.

The opening track, “Mr. Chiverton’s Broadwood” is perhaps the most “new age” of the selections. A solo piece, Welch takes a rather simple theme and improvises variations on it. This is both a classical and a jazz approach, and Welch combines the two very effectively. “Summer Solstice” is a lazy, beautiful duet for piano and electric guitar - a summer daydream set to music. “Jiggity Gigue” is a classic. Upbeat, fun, spilling over with life, this piano/sax duet is a real favorite. (It also reminds me of some of Ira Stein’s ensemble work.) “Prelude Op. 11, #2” is a shorter solo piece that again seamlessly combines classical and jazz elements to great effect. “Maddie’s Dream” picks up the pace with piano and vibraphone, creating a lighthearted romp that is completely infectious. “Floating on the Sea” is a gorgeous sax and piano duet. The sax opens with a simple theme and melody line, and then the two musicians take off with it - another favorite. The cover tune is Welch’s solo arrangement of “The Water Is Wide” - a traditional song that has been turning up on a lot of albums the past several years. Welch makes it his own.

Songs Without Words is a great album, pure and simple. Several cuts above most smooth jazz albums, but easy-going enough to relax with, I very highly recommend it. I also love the cover artwork! It is available from amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and chriswelch.net.
January 4, 2003
This review has been tagged as:
Debut AlbumsJazz
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