Cécile McLorin Salvant Makes Me Care Again


Photo by Mark Fitton

I don’t care much for jazz singing these days—precisely because I love jazz singing, and since too many vocalists seem as if beating dead horses or faking things with great competence.
Don’t get me wrong. Dee Dee Bridgewater, at 65, is her riveting and blues-drenched self, backed by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on the new CD “Dee Dee’s Feathers” (OKeh). Cassandra Wilson, 59, honored Billie Holiday’s centennial with subtlety and invention on last year’s “Coming Forth By Day” (Legacy). And on “Speaking in Tongues” (Sunnyside, due Sept. 18), Luciana Souza, 49, works as an equal improvising partner alongside stellar instrumentalists, singing wordlessly for the most part.
Still, it’s been rare to hear a young female singer find her stride without sagging from the weight of inherited legacy or wandering aimlessly for lack of clear intent. Along came Cécile McLorin Salvant, who first suggested herself as an exception in 2010 when she arrived mostly as an unknown at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, flashed exceptional talent, and won. On her debut CD, “WomanChild,” in 2013, she lent surprising currency to songs mostly written during the first three decades of the 20th century. At Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater last year, before an audience drawn mostly by a then-new collective quartet of established jazz stars such as drummer Jack DeJohnette and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, Ms. Salvant stole the night with her opening set.
I shared my enthusiasm for Salvant’s singing after that show here.
Now 25, Ms. Salvant delivers yet further on this promise with “For One to Love” (Mack Avenue).
For my full review of Salvant’s new CD, go here.

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