Cecile McLorin Salvant | SPACE | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Cecile McLorin Salvant

Cecile McLorin Salvant

When: Sat., March 8, 7 & 9:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $18-$38
Jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant is only 23, but in the past year she’s arrived in a big way. Her fantastic U.S. debut, WomanChild (Mack Avenue), earned a Grammy nomination, and it’s a remarkably assured statement for such a young artist. Salvant conveys the verve and spirit of classic jazz singers such as Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, but her viewpoint is thoroughly postmodern, accommodating a repertoire that reaches beyond jazz—she reimagines the antique Bert Williams vehicle “Nobody,” for instance, replacing its droll pessismism with something more outgoing, and transforms the traditional American folk song “John Henry” into gospelized funk. For the lithe ballad “Le Front Caché sur Tes Genoux” she set a piece by Haitian poet Ida Salomon Faubert to an original melody, and she turns “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” into a clinic on breathless acceleration and deceleration. Her voice has astounding range, malleability, and expressiveness, with the tonal precision necessary for careful emotional shading of the tiniest syllable, but unlike most current jazz singers, she makes restraint her default position, singing with a sense of purpose but without flash. This means that her rare baroque flourishes—such as the wordless shapes in the introduction to the title track, another original tune—carry that much more power. Salvant has yet to engage in any truly radical experimentation, but she’s nonetheless the most impressive new female singer since Cassandra Wilson in the late 80s. On the album her deft trio (pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer Herlin Riley) gets plenty of time in the spotlight, but she performs with a different band here: pianist Adam Birnbaum, bassist Paul Sikivie, and drummer Quincy Davis. —Peter Margasak


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