Cecile McLorin Salvant
has one of the most powerful voices in jazz. Which doesn't make her always easy to listen to. Sometimes she instills new meaning to an old lyric, other times she tries too hard and goes over the top. Still, at least she tries.
She comes from Miami, daughter of a Haitian father and a French mother. Aware of the power of her voice from an early age, she trained in classical music, but then fell in love with the voice of Sarah Vaughan
when she was 14. "I just wanted to sound as much like her as I possibly could," she recalls.
She went on to win an assortment of awards, including, in 2010, the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, and attracted rave reviews. Wynton Marsalis
says of her, "You get a singer like this once in a generation or two."
That's a maybe. Singers that impress
you are not necessarily those you'll want to hear again and again. Especially when they go into diva screech mode.
But McLorin Salvant says: "I never wanted to sound clean and pretty. In jazz, I felt I could sing these deep, husky lows if I want, and then these really tiny, laser highs if I want, as well."
On The Window
, her fifth album, she is accompanied on nearly all tracks by pianist Sullivan Fortner
. On only one, "The Peacocks," is anyone else present, this being Melissa Albana playing wispy tenor saxophone. The sparse setting grows tiresome.
Highlights? There are plenty: "Ever Since The One I Love's Been Gone," singing to a live audience; "Wild Is Love," "The Gentleman Is A Dope," "Trouble Is A Man" and "I've Got Your Number" and "Everything I've Got Belongs To You." On Richard Rodgers' "The Sweetest Sounds," she is upstaged by a magnificent solo by Fortner.
She sings in French on two numbers, her own "A Clef" and "J'ai L'Cafard," on which Fortner plays organ.
Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere," from West Side Story
, suffers from being given the big treatment and "Were Thine That Special Face" is Cole Porter at his most precious and should have been left in the dusty vault from which it was taken.