CD review: Cécile McLorin Salvant

(Mack Avenue MAC1072)

Still in her early 20s this Miami-born, half-French, half-Haitian singer has already been a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and is clearly a major new vocal force on the jazz scene.

McLorin Salvant goes right back to the beginnings of jazz for some of her inspiration and opens this disc with St Louis Gal which had been sung by Bessie Smith nearly a century earlier. She has does a great reading of Bert Williams and Alex Rogers’ Nobody, doing justice to its humour and its seriousness.

If I have a slight problem with her it is that she wears her influences a little too openly – sounding remarkably like Betty Carter (especially early Betty) in her vocal tone and phrasing, and writing remarkably like Abbey Lincoln with her own title song.

She sounds more original on another of her own tunes, Le Front Cache Sur Tes Genoux, perhaps because she sings it in French.

Of course these Carterisms and Lincolnisms are not necessarily a problem for the listener – McLorin Salvant does them gloriously, and there are worse singers to imitate! And it isn’t all she does – she uses remarkable variety in her tone and the range of her delivery.

The timing on her I Didn’t Know What Time It Was is lovely, the arrangement of There’s A Lull In My Life is slow and sensuous, and You Bring Out The Savage In Me shows even more of that range of vocal character as well as a daring choice of material and a dramatic wit.

Her band, a trio led by pianist Aaron Diehl, with a little added guitar and banjo here and there, is excellent.

It’ll be exciting to hear what Cécile McLorin Salvant does next, and especially as she develops further her very own style and sound.

Here is a live taste of I Didn’t Know…:


Categories: CD review

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