Cécile McLorin Salvant was born and raised in Miami, Florida of a French mother and a Haitian father. She started classical piano studies at 5, and began singing in the Miami Choral Society at 8. Early on, she developed an interest in classical voice, began studying with private instructors, and later with Edward Walker, vocal teacher at the University of Miami.
In 2007, Cécile moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, to study law as well as classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory. It was in Aix-en-Provence, with reedist and teacher Jean-François Bonnel, that she started learning about improvisation, instrumental and vocal repertoire ranging from the 1910s on, and sang with her first band. In 2009, after a series of concerts in Paris, she recorded her first album Cécile, with Jean-François Bonnel's Paris Quintet. A year later, she won the Thelonious Monk competition in Washington D.C.
Cécile performs unique interpretations of unknown and scarcely recorded jazz and blues compositions. She focuses on a theatrical portrayal of the jazz standard and composes music and lyrics which she also sings in French, her native language as well as in Spanish. She enjoys popularity in Europe and in the United States, performing in clubs, concert halls, and festivals accompanied by renowned musicians like Jean-Francois Bonnel, Rodney Whitaker, Aaron Diehl, Dan Nimmer, Sadao Watanabe, Jacky Terrasson (she was the guest singer on his latest album, Gouache), Archie Shepp, and Jonathan Batiste. She is the voice of Chanel's Chance ad campaign for the third consecutive year. In August 2012, Cécile recorded WomanChild for the Mack Avenue Label with Aaron Diehl, Rodney Whitaker, Herlin Riley and James Chirillo.