*Cécile McLorin Salvant walked out, took the stage, and sang her heart out.
On a beautiful, crisp autumn evening under the stars, before a mixed audience of young and old jazz enthusiasts at The Ford in Los Angeles, the 32-year-old singing sensation simply seduced with her genuine musical offerings.
Salvant, who hit the scene, presenting the world with her 2013 CD, ‘WomanChild,’ doesn’t just sing songs, she interprets them and dissects them down to their core to unearth its bare bones. Then the Grammy-winner rebuilds them in her own jazz lab – adding flavors and emotions, and that special blend as she goes.
This jazz musician, who won the Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition, doesn’t just sing anything, she sangs everything. Sometimes she finds the most obscure songs from days gone by and sings life into them.
No bells and whistles needed, armed with only her voice, a mic, and the incredible talents of her pianist Sullivan Fortner, Salvant put on a masterful performance.
Salvant, who moved to the south of France where she took voice lessons at the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, opened her set with her rendition of Bessie Smith’s “Outside of That,” about an abused woman who stays because she likes her man’s lovin’. It’s a heartbreakin’ tune that speaks volumes. Outside of him being cruel and beatin’ on her, blackening her eye and pawning her belongings, “outside of that, he’s alright with me.”
Salvant, a Miami native, then gently glided into “Some People” from the musical ‘Gypsy’ before singing a tune from Kurt Vile.
In between songs, the banter between Salvant and Fortner was priceless and quite hilarious speaking as if they were having a private conversation during rehearsals. Fortner’s effortless skills on the ivories are mesmerizing and free-spirited and a joy to watch and hear.
There seems to be no limit to what Salvant can do with her voice. As she croons, she moves effortlessly among musical styles. Singing a cappella, the audience is able to clearly witness her vocal prowess. Whatever she sings, she tends to make her own – even when she’s singing songs from such powerhouses as Bessie Smith and Dianne Reeves.
Offerings included “I’m All Smiles,” two selections by Kate Bush, “Heathcliff, It’s Me” and “Breathing” and “Mista” by Dianne Reeves. All received joyous applause.
Salvant, who admits to often writing about “doom and gloom,” also sang several of her own songs including “Fog,” with brilliant lyrics like:
Love appears just like the fog
Sometimes I try to recall
The feeling that I could fall
All at once
Who knew that I’d miss the mist
The mist must have evanesced
Before ending her 90-minute set, Salvant and Fortner sang “Together, Wherever We Go” from Gypsy. She then sang “Light in The Piazza,” “Promises, Promises,” and ended with “One Step Ahead.”
There didn’t appear to be a pre-selected list of songs as Salvant frequently asked Fortner to pick something for them to perform.
It was a joyous night of jazz. As a jazz musician, Salvant is the real deal!!
Salvant and Fortner shared a story about a free concert they did on Facebook during the pandemic and how they had to clap for themselves. At The Ford in Los Angeles where she was the recipient of rousing applause, Salvant said, “This is better.”
Darlene Donloe is a seasoned entertainment and travel journalist whose work has appeared in People, Ebony, Essence, LA Stage Times, The Wave newspapers, LA Watts Times, Black Meetings and Tourism, This Stage, Los Angeles Sentinel, EMMY, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Grammy, BlackVoices.com and more. Contact her via email@example.com