Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Hat Lady swings and sings

Carol Stein
Jazz pianist and singer Carol Stein can’t hide her solid chops, even when she’s working her “day job.”  Actually, it’s an evening job.

Five nights a week, Stein is “The Hat Lady” at Epcot’s Rose & Crown Pub at Walt Disney World. At the pub’s console piano, she breezes through what seems an endless litany of pop songs, English and Irish pub songs embellished with her vocal improvisations to fit the moment, jazz and classical flourishes – and a grand smile. Every tune or two, Stein changes her hat to another of the dozen odd or outlandish ones hanging on the wall or a nearby rack.

”It’s a special thing to have a full-time job as a jazz musician,” Stein told me this week between sets.

As the Rose & Crown’s Hat Lady, she revealed her jazz chops this evening on her version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” a tune that Mel Tormé helped transform into a jazz standard. She then customizes the lyrics to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” for a pair of honeymooners who have just walked in to join the fun.

She also has a flair for the classical imprint she sometimes puts on popular standards. It’s a technique the crowd loves.

Stein sang and played the Mary Poppins classic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in its original form. She then asked somebody in the room to call out the name of a classical composer. Mozart was the suggestion, so she played the tune with the detail and delicacy that Mozart would add. After that interpretation, then she did the same with the bombast of Beethoven when his name was called out. Chops indeed.

The Hat Lady
She took a night off in October to open the Clearwater Jazz Holiday with her quintet, Carol Stein & Friends. Through the years, she has developed strong working relationships with Central Florida’s finest jazz players.

Stein started studying classical piano at age 4 in her hometown, Miami. The University of Florida graduate has worked 22 years at Walt Disney World, the last four at the Rose & Crown. For many years, she was the resident musician for an  improv troupe at The Comedy Warehouse at Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island. She also put in some time as an entertainer at Orlando’s defunct Rosie O’Grady’s as a member of Rosie O’Grady’s World Famous Banjo Band.

Though her album The Jazz Lady contains a couple of originals as well as  jazz and pop classics, she calls herself ”a straight-ahead standards lady.”

Catch her music sometime, whether she’s appearing at the Rose & Crown as The Hat Lady (generally Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m.) or elsewhere in her various guises as “The Jazz Lady” and “The Piano Lady.”

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