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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Friday, 02 October 2015 20:46

Cécile McLorin Salvant - For One to Love

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To dream, perchance to love….

The new album by the über talented Cécile McLorin Savant, released last month, is literally something else. For One to Love is a beautiful construction - melodic, sad, innovative and most of all, stupendously performed.

When I saw Cécile at Ronnie Scott’s in London back in June this year, I was taken to another dimension, she blew me away; she was formidable, funny and a magician all in one.  

Mack Avenue, her record label, must surely be proud and astounded at the same time. The label has a history of signing up some of the most talented acts in recent times, but in Cécile they have found an artist that is quite simply a breath of fresh air in the world of jazz music. 

Cécile is accompanied on the album by the fabulous trio that is Aaron Diehl on piano, Paul Sikivie on double bass and Lawrence Leathers on drums. This was exactly the same line-up I saw at Ronnie Scott’s.  When I started listening to the new album I sensed a slight change of direction, but with the same musicians - genius.

The new album contains five gems, all self-penned. Incredible pieces of writing, not for the faint-hearted. She writes these songs, but they are poems straight from the heart, from the deepest recesses of her own self.  She writes with no fear, with a new and fresh approach to lyrics that is to be admired.  

The album opens with one her compositions, Fog. Beautiful, delicate, imperceptible and penetrative.  

A total treat and surprise for the choice of the second track is Growlin’ Dan by Blanche Calloway and Clyde Hart. Blanche Calloway, older sister of Cab and soon to disappear behind her brother’s fame, was an incredible musician in her own right. 

A tune she played at Ronnie Scott’s back in June is the entertaining Stepsisters’ Lament, the popular Rodgers and Hammerstein composition. I enjoyed this at the time of her gig in June and enjoyed it again whilst listening on the album. An apt choice, personally rendered. 

The presence of tracks by Bacharach, Wives and Lovers and by Bernstein, Something’s Coming are yet another sign of Cécile’s growth; she performs these with confidence, assurance that these are now hers, in her dominion and that she means what she is singing.

This is an important album for Cecile, not just for the music contained on it, but for the moving nature of her lyrics. These tracks could stand alone and become poems - in fact, they do. Just listening to Fog, for example or Left Over, these are stunning pieces and, what’s more, the album’s booklet offers the lyrics AND the chance to see some of Cecile’s artwork.  

Her drawings are shaped in basic, raw lines and curves. Cécile McLorin Salvant, the visual artist, has a promising career, too. She draws and paints all the time, even when touring and is currently preparing her first exhibition. 

“Music chose me in a way," she tells us. "I stumbled upon it, but illustrating is something I’ve chosen to do”.

Whilst we await to see her works hopefully in London soon, let’s all go and see her perform at Cadogan Hall on 14th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. It will be mesmerising.

My favourite track: Underling.

Review by Erminia Yardley.

Photograph by Carl Hyde, used with permission. 


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