‘You get a singer like this once in a gen­er­a­tion or two’

Cé­cile McLorin Sal­vant: From Mi­ami by way of Al­ice in Chains

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - SPOTLIGHT - By Ben Cran­dell

Jazz has al­ways been a place of glo­ri­ous cul­tural mashups, where dy­namic de­mo­graph­ics in­spire, where tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion co­a­lesce, where a Mi­ami vo­cal­ist draw­ing com­par­isons to Sarah Vaughan can, with­out apol­ogy, ex­press her love for grunge hellions Al­ice in Chains.

Cé­cile McLorin Sal­vant re­turns to her home­town for a per­for­mance on Fri­day, Dec. 7, at the peak of a re­mark­able ca­reer that, at age 29, is still just be­gin­ning.

Sal­vant’s sec­ond al­bum, 2014’s “Wo­manChild” (Mack Av­enue Records) was nom­i­nated for a Grammy Award, and her third and fourth al­bums, “For One to Love” and “Dreams and Dag­gers,” each won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vo­cal Al­bum.

Over the past sev­eral years, she has sold out mul­ti­ple head­lin­ing per­for­mances at New York’s jazz mecca, the Vil­lage Van­guard, and toured with Wyn­ton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter Orches­tra, as crit­ics around the world have gen­u­flected.

The New York Times drew a line from Sal­vant back to the Big Three of fe­male jazz vo­cal­ists — Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzger­ald. A few weeks ago Sal­vant was named to Forbes mag­a­zine’s 2019 30 Un­der 30 list of mu­si­cians, song­writ­ers and in­dus­try in­flu­encers who are “top­ping charts and shift­ing cul­ture.”

“You get a singer like this once in a gen­er­a­tion or two,” Marsalis said in a 2017 New Yorker mag­a­zine pro­file of Sal­vant.

On Fri­day, Dec. 7, Mi­ami’s Ar­sht Cen­ter will kick off the 11th sea­son of its ac­claimed Jazz Roots se­ries with a per­for­mance by Artemis, the seven-woman in­ter­na­tional jazz su­per­goup that in­cludes Sal­vant, pi­anist and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Re­nee Rosnes, clar­inetist Anat Co­hen, tenor sax­o­phon­ist Melissa Al­dana, trum­peter In­grid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda and drum­mer Al­li­son Miller.

Speak­ing from her apart­ment in New York, Sal­vant says she is look­ing for­ward to the phys­i­cal set­ting of the per­for­mance — in front of fam­ily and friends in her home­town — but also the mu­si­cal sur­round­ings pro­vided by the women in the band.

Artemis be­gan as a unique one-off union of fe­male band­leaders, but be­came some­thing more, Sal­vant says.

“Ev­ery­body in the band is very dif­fer­ent, and we each have our own bands. But we made a con­scious choice that we wanted to keep play­ing with each other, and so it no longer be­came a gen­der thing. It be­came a mu­sic thing,” she says.

“For me it’s like a con­ver­sa­tion, you know? We bring dif­fer­ent things out of each other. There’s a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion on­stage, so there’s a spon­tane­ity. We re­ally lis­ten to each other, so ev­ery show is dif­fer­ent. Or should be dif­fer­ent,” Sal­vant says, laugh­ing.

The daugh­ter of a Haitian physi­cian and a French Guade­lou­pean mother (founder of the French Amer­i­can School in Mi­ami), Sal­vant says she was “re­ally lucky” to grow up be­ing formed by her mother’s eclec­tic taste for folk and clas­si­cal mu­sic from Africa, South Amer­i­can and the Caribbean. This was a con­trast from her own playlist.

“I lis­tened to a lot of grunge, R&B, punk, pop hits of the day,” she says. “I had a mo­ment where I was re­ally, re­ally into Al­ice in Chains.”

Sal­vant found her jazz voice after mov­ing to Aix-en-Provence, France, to study law in 2007, win­ning the pres­ti­gious Th­elo­nious Monk In­ter­na­tional Jazz Com­pe­ti­tion three years later.

A new al­bum

In Oc­to­ber, Sal­vant re­leased her fifth al­bum, “The Win­dow,” a col­lab­o­ra­tion with pi­anist Suli­van Fort­ner fea­tur­ing a fig­u­ra­tive paint­ing by Sal­vant on the cover. A col­lec­tion that has at­tracted more crit­i­cal praise and talk of an­other Grammy nom­i­na­tion, “The Win­dow” is an­other show­case for Sal­vant’s spe­cial abil­ity to take a fa­mil­iar song to a new place.


Cé­cile McLorin Sal­vant will per­form Dec. 7 at the Ar­sht Cen­ter in Mi­ami with the jazz su­per­group Artemis.

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