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Cécile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love at the Chan Centre

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Cécile McLorin Salvant returns to the Chan Centre this coming Sunday May 1st – I have two words of advice – which I’m sure would be echoed by anyone who attended her performance there last year – just go!

Her quartet with pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers was presented in a double bill with Terri Lyne Carrington‘s Mosaic Project and I think it’s safe to say that many of the attendees did not know her before despite her winning the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition but I’m willing to bet that many will be going back this weekend for a return engagement. Since then her recording WomanChild swept the Downbeat polls and won almost universal acclaim and her followup For One To Love won this year’s Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy Award. When she performed here, For One to Love had not yet been released but most of her performance was drawn from that recording with the exception of an extended workout on John Henry from WomanChild.

Salvant shows a maturity and technique that belies a performer still in her 20s but she has the ability to completely inhabit a song that is incredibly rare – an ability that allows her to play musical dramatic roles like the breathless schoolgirl in The Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis or Something’s Coming from West Side Story not usually part of the usual jazz vocal repertoire. But she even brings new insight into chestnuts like I Didn’t Know What Time It Was or What A Little Moonlight Can Do. When I’ve played her music on the A-Trane I often get calls asking who it is and noting the influence of Sarah Vaughan (a lineage that she acknowledges) but I also hear traces of Betty Carter in a style that’s all her own. (Did I mention that she was tempted over to jazz when she was singing Early Music while she was studying Law in France? She can sing torts in French!)

Salvant uncovers some wonderful gems too from the likes of Bert Williams, a Vaudeville-era singer whose Nobody was previously resurrected on Ry Cooder’s Jazz album. Or from Blanche Calloway – older sister to Cab – who had a hit with Growlin’ Dan. Or the under-appreciated 30s-era Valaida Snow with You Bring Out the Savage in Me. Or a genre-smashing rendition of Burt Bacharach‘s Wives and Lovers.

On For One To Love she also demonstrates her own song-writing abilities with almost half the songs on the recording! (Did I mention that she’s a humourous and stunning visual artist who did the artwork for the covers of two of her CDs?) In the last couple of years, she’s also managed to collaborate with musicians as varied as Bill Charlap, Archie Shepp’s Big Band and Wynton Marsalis & J@LC as well as doing her own featured Billie Holiday Tribute for Lincoln Centre. This woman’s full of surprises – Just Go!


I’ll be interviewing Cécile McLorin Salvant on The A-Trane this Friday April 29th on CFRO 100.5FM at 2:30 pm.
The Chan Centre presents Cécile McLorin Salvant this Sunday May 1st at 8pm

(Just go!)

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