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Dreams and Daggers

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Cecile McLorin Salvant first made waves in the jazz world when, at the urging of her mother, she entered the most prestigious jazz vocal competition in the world. Having nearly missed the submission deadline, she made it to the finals as their youngest performer and was selected by an illustrious panel of judges – Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Patti Austin, and Al Jarreau – as the 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition winner. While she had bypassed the traditional U.S. conservatories and jazz schools, McLorin Salvant studied at France’s Aix-en-Provence before returning for the competition’s semi-finals, the judges noted her remarkable voice and striking ability to inhabit the emotional space of every song she heard and turn it into a compelling statement. 


Cécile McLorin Salvant

Product#: MAC1072|Released: 05/27/13



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Shortly before the release of Cécile McLorin Salvant’s debut Mack Avenue album WomanChild, critic Ben Ratliff made a bold prediction in the pages of the New York Times. McLorin Salvant, he claimed, “is still mostly unknown to jazz audiences”—then added: “though not for much longer.”

McLorin Salvant has more than validated that forecast. The last 24 months have been a whirlwind of success and acclaim for the young vocalist, who first came to the attention of jazz fans with her triumph at the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. WomanChild went on to earn a bevy of honors, including a GRAMMY® Award-nomination and selection as Jazz Album Of The Year by the DownBeat International Critics Poll.

That magazine also honored McLorin Salvant in three other categories including Best Female Jazz Vocalist. A few months later, the Jazz Journalists Association selected McLorin Salvant as Up-and- Coming Jazz Artist Of The Year and as Top Female Vocalist. NPR also took, honoring WomanChild as the Best Jazz Vocal Album Of The Year in its annual critics poll. In short, no jazz singer of recent memory has garnered up more honors more quickly than Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Now she has released her follow-up Mack Avenue album, For One To Love—which won Salvant her first GRAMMY® Award in the “Best Jazz Vocal Album” category at the 58th Annual GRAMMY® Awards—a more intimate and confessional project that reveals new dimensions of this young vocalist’s artistry. “I’m not playing anyone else here but myself,” McLorin Salvant explains. “I can look at many of these songs, and see that this is an event that really happened, or a feeling I’ve lived through myself. “That’s what makes it so difficult to share. It’s almost like a diary entry.”

McLorin Salvant grew up in a bilingual household in Miami, the child of a French mother and Haitian father. She started piano studies at age five, and at eight began singing with the Miami Choral Society. After graduating from Coral Reef Senior High, a premier Miami magnet school, McLorin Salvant decided to pursue her education in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, where troubadours invented the Western love song almost one thousand years ago. In this unlikely setting, McLorin Salvant embarked on a new career as a jazz performer, while pursuing a degree in French law and her training as a classical and baroque singer.

Three years later, McLorin Salvant returned to the US as a semifinalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. She had entered the contest at the urging of her mother, but almost missed the submission deadline. “On the last day, I mailed the audition recording with an apology for not getting it in sooner,” she recalls.

Then the call came inviting her to Washington D.C. for the contest. Here an illustrious panel of judges— Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Patti Austin and Al Jarreau—took note of McLorin Salvant’s remarkable voice and striking ability to inhabit the emotional space of every song she heard and turn it into a compelling personal statement. This surprise contender, the unheralded American jazz singer from France, took the top spot in the jazz world’s most demanding competition.

“She brought down the house,” The Washington Post told its readers the next day. Less than three years after first performing with a jazz band, writer Anne Midgette noted, McLorin Salvant was already singing “like a seasoned pro. Her marathon is just beginning.”

Others were now taking notice. “She has poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace,” announced Wynton Marsalis. “If anyone can extend the lineage of the Big Three—Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald—it is this 23-year-old virtuoso,” added Stephen Holden in the New York Times. The release of WomanChild both backed up these claims and introduced McLorin Salvant’s music to a host of new listeners. The up-and-coming vocalist was now a legitimate jazz star.

In more recent months, McLorin Salvant’s work has moved beyond the jazz world and entered into the broader culture. You can hear it on commercials for Chanel, or in the soundtrack for the HBO show Bessie. But this crossover success has come without compromise. As critic Nate Chinen aptly notes, “whatever else you might say about her,” McLorin Salvant sounds “clearly, unmistakably like a jazz singer.”

Now McLorin Salvant makes an even bolder statement with, For One To Love. This may be the defining jazz statement on romance in the new millennium, a heartfelt album that both embodies the full range of the American popular song idiom, but distills it into a distinctly personal expression of a modern-day poet- troubadour.

On the new album, McLorin Salvant again shows her uncanny knack of channeling her own personality into the work of her predecessors, both the acclaimed (Bessie Smith) and the less well-known (Blanche Calloway, whose fame during her lifetime was eclipsed by her brother Cab). “I’ve made some choices about celebrating strong women,” McLorin Salvant explains. “And I want to celebrate independence, the courage not to look or act a certain way.”

McLorin Salvant is increasingly making her strongest musical statements via her own compositions, which stand out as the centerpiece on the new project. Five of the tracks on For One To Love feature her songs, and here she reminds us of those other great jazz singers, from Billie Holiday to Abbey Lincoln, who found that the most powerful expressions of moods and feelings often came via their own compositions.

And McLorin Salvant also shares her vision as a visual artist in the design of the album. This field has been a focus in recent years: both at home in Harlem and on the road, she works on painting and drawing, and is currently preparing for her first exhibition. “Music chose me,” she reflects; “in a way, I stumbled upon it. But illustrating is something I’ve chosen to do.”

In short, her distinctive artistry shapes every aspect of this project. For One To Love serves as proof positive that Cécile McLorin Salvant has not only arrived, but she is still going places. 

She has poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace.


NPR: Jazz Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant Doesn’t Want to Sound ‘Clean and Pretty’   01.16.15

I did everything I could to not bring in any of the technical things I got from classical into jazz, and I did everything to really base it on my speaking voice and to just not try to make it sound pretty.

Cecile McLorin Salvant [San Diego Union-Tribune]   01.16.15

Rising vocal sensation Cécile McLorin Salvant is not the first young Grammy Award-winner to warmly thank her parents for their early and unwavering musical support. But she may well be one of the first to suggest, with a broad smile, that a certain degree of fear may also have been also a factor. 

Top tens: our favorite albums of the year   01.16.15

When we polled our music writers for their favorite albums last year, there was little crossover — not surprising when you consider that one critic loves jazz, another specializes in hip-hop, another favors country and yet another can’t get enough post-punk rock. This year, however, those same seven writers submitted lists with a bit more in common.

Cecile McLorin Savant [Stereophile]   01.16.15

How the hell could I have missed Cecile McLorin Salvant? It's not as if she's been toiling in obscurity. She won the Thelonious Monk award in 2010, the Downbeat Critics' Prize for best jazz album (WomanChild) in 2014, and a Grammy for best jazz vocal album (For One to Love) just this year. She's been singing with her trio at the Village Vanguard this past week, and every set has been sold out or nearly so.


Only a few years into her career, the singer has absorbed the music’s history and made it her own. " was clear right away that the hype was justified. She sang with perfect intonation, elastic rhythm, an operatic range from thick lows to silky highs."

Cécile McLorin Salvant On Past, Present, Future   01.16.15

Ever since she stunned judges and took first place at the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010, the 27-year-old has established a legacy through an extraordinary command of jazz mythology augmented with her own eclectic tastes and surprising interpretations. Revue talked with Cecile McLorin Salvant about where her art is headed next and the inspiration and motivations that are driving her.

New York Times - The Year in Music Videos   01.16.15

There are still innovative artist-created music videos, but in the modern age, all the musician can really control is the song — what’s done with it once it’s in the world is anyone’s guess. Here are critics’ picks of the best music videos of 2015

Grammys 2016: Cécile McLorin Salvant and Maria Schneider are among the jazz winners   01.16.15

... this year's win by 26-year-old jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who lost out in the jazz vocal category in her first nomination in 2014 but came back to earn honors this year for her lauded album "For One to Love." Salvant beat out albums by Lorraine Feather, Karrin Allyson, Denise Donatelli and Jamison Ross.

12 Young American Jazz Musicians You Need To Know   01.16.15

Born to a French mother and a Haitian father in Miami, Florida, Cécile McLorin Salvant was singing and playing classical piano before she reached the age of 10. A move to France in 2007 saw her study improvisation and vocal repertoire under respected reedist Jean-François Bonnel. Success followed the recording of her debut album, Cécile, in 2009, winning the the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. 

All the Best Concerts, of What the Critics Have Seen   01.16.15

The stage show is still where it’s possible to take the full measure of a performer, whether at a D.I.Y. party or an arena. Here, from the jazz and pop critics at The New York Times, are hundreds of 2015 concert experiences boiled down to 40

Cécile McLorin Salvant Interviews with The Last Magazine   01.16.15

This September, McLorin Salvant released For One to Love, and, as much as the new album continues with the tradition of the jazz and pop standards she has become known for, the now 2016 Grammy-nominated For One to Love is different. It’s an effort of, well, love.

NPR First Listen: Cécile McLorin Salvant, ‘For One To Love’   01.16.15

In an age when singing the blues has been so thoroughly subsumed and reconfigured within other American pop-music traditions, when a main stem has become an offshoot branch, how is a self-aware jazz vocalist supposed to sell out emotionally — and expect to sell it to a wide audience?

At Berklee, the sounds of ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton and George Gershwin   01.16.15

The usual setup of Cecile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl’s working trio, with bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers, was for this project expanded to an octet

Examiner: Fearless and daring, Cécile McLorin Salvant wins another Grammy nomination   01.16.15

Salvant is up against some stiff competition: Denise Donatelli’s Find A Heart, Lorraine Feather’s Flirting With Disaster, Jamison Ross’ Jamison, and Karrin Allyson’s Many A New Day. But then the vocal album category is usually the biggest jazz deal, year after year, and the most recognized outside the genre — next to best jazz instrumental.

Cecile McLorin Salvant Brings Theatricality, Musicality to Spoleto Jazz Series   01.16.15

Winner of the 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition, Cecile McLorin Salvant performs her interpretations of the standards and shares some original songs, too.

Upcoming Tour Date


Cécile McLorin Salvant

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  • Jul 25,2017 New York, NY Kaufmann Concert Hall
  • Aug 4,2017 Newport, RI Newport Jazz Festival
  • Aug 6,2017 Rockport, MA Rockport Jazz Festival
  • Aug 7,2017 North Truro, MA Payomet Performing Arts Center
  • Aug 11,2017 Marciac, France Jazz in Marciac (special guest of Wynton Marsalls)
  • Aug 26,2017 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl
  • Aug 27,2017 Oakland, CA Yoshi's
  • Aug 30,2017 Portland, OR PDX Jazz
  • Aug 31,2017 Seattle, WA Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
  • Sep 14,2017 State College, PA Schwab Auditorium
  • Sep 15,2017 Easton, PA Williams Center for the Arts
  • Sep 26,2017 New York, NY Village Vanguard
  • Oct 11,2017 London, UK Ronnie Scott's
  • Oct 14,2017 Dortmund, Germany Domicil Jazz Club
  • Oct 17,2017 Hamburg, Germany Elbphilharmonie - Concert Hall
  • Oct 18,2017 Groningen, Netherlands Jazz in De Oosterpoort
  • Oct 20,2017 Tilburg, Netherlands Concertzaal