Cécile McLorin Salvant Sings Old Songs New

Eschewing both retro and modern musical gestures, the remarkable young jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant manages here to make new and fresh an album of mostly very old songs.

Miami born to a French mother and Haitian father and first involved in classical music including joining at eight years of age the Miami Chorale Society, the twenty five year old French-speaking McLorin Salvant chose to get her secondary education in France where she studied law in addition to musically focusing first on classical and baroque vocals plus jazz at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory.

She won the Thelonious Monk Jazz competition in 2010 (the judges were Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau and Dianne Reeves) and in addition to taking home $20,000 was offered a Concord Records recording contract though this, her second album was issued on Mack Avenue (her debut Cecile and the Jean-François Bonnel Paris Quintet a collaboration with one of her teachers' groups is available through PayPal).

She's performed in concert around the world and of course caught the attention of a long list of jazz greats. Now it is your turn on this impeccably produced, superb sounding album on which she's ably backed by the quartet of pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Rodney Whitaker (who was in the Monk competition "house" band), guitarist James Chirillo and drummer Herlin Riley.

On a wide-ranging repertoire covering everything from the folk tradition of "John Henry" to Harry Woods' 1934 classic "What a Little Moonlight Can Do"—made famous by Billie Holiday— McLorin Salvant is simultaneously light and breezy and deep and thoughtful. She's playful and funny, serious and self-assured, deep and soulful and though she's covering some familiar tunes, and you can see glints of some of her influences, she sounds only like Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Her phrasing and timing are locked in yet loose and supple; her range seems unlimited. She literally creates a fresh breeze that you will feel before the end of the opener "St. Louis Gal" a song Bessie Smith recorded ninety plus years ago. That's not the oldest credited song on the album, which would be "Nobody" from the early 1900s that Ry Cooder fans will recognize from his cover. The album lists two "previously unreleased tracks" that apparently weren't on the CD.

You will fall in love the first play through, with both the musical performances and the sonics. The album was recorded at Avatar, mixed at ValveTone Studios, originally mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios and mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Mastering. Recording engineer Todd Whitelock, whose long resume includes jazz, classical and rock engineering, mixing and mastering presents McLorin Salvant close miked, unprocessed and surrounded by a natural cushion of air. There's plenty of air and space on a well-presented and coherent soundstage that you'll appreciate. It can be done digitally. The producer thanks Sennheiser/Neumann USA for the loan of an MKH800 Twin condenser microphone and klavierhous for use of a Fazioli F-278 Concert Grand Piano.

On the opener she's backed only by an acoustic guitar but when the group begins playing on the next tune "I Didn't Know What Time I Was" you'll know the sonic ride will be in an open, airy spacious convertible.

This 2014 GRAMMY® nominated double LP, well-pressed at RTI, is highly recommended. It will leave you floating.

Music Direct Buy It Now

figaro's picture

This album belongs in every collection! So happy you reviewed it Michael, more people should(and will) get to know her better.

Wait till next year when they start playing her music at all the audio shows!

MMaterial's picture

Good to know that Kevin Gray can massage digital files to vinyl so well. First "Tommy" now this.

Do you recall how well this was done for the 200 gram "In the Court Crimson King" reissue? (Heavy rotation 3/11 issue of Stereophile).

And, can anyone please reveal the turntable, arm and stand in the Gallery section, page 2: My Turntable by YNWaN 1/26/14??

Ringaleavio's picture

at the 92St Y Jazz in July next Wednesday if you can score a ticket. She is divine....

Audiobill's picture

For the most part the surfaces are extremely quiet on this 2-LP set. However, when I pay nearly $55 for 180-gm virgin vinyl, I expect no flaws. I was extremely disappointed to hear repeating pops on the first tracks of both Sides 1 and 3. An audible flaw on Side 3 was also visible. It's such a drag to have to send an LP back and pay for the return shipping to boot.

Michael Fremer's picture
The copy I bought was nearly flawless. A truly flawless LP is rare in my experience. However, "pops" can often disappear after the stylus "de-horns" the grooves. First track noise is often a "non-fill" issue that's not solvable. Pressing plants that can't get 180 done correctly should just produce great 140 or 120g records. I don't know where Mack Avenue presses but if it's Gotta Groove in Cleveland, they usually do a very good job.
Audiobill's picture

Michael, you know a lot more about this vinyl stuff than I do, but these pops don't seem to be anything that will go away with repeated play. Both are loud pops that are in the first track on the A sides. They continue for several seconds, repeating at the same point in the rotation. As I said, one is actually visable, so I doubt if that will dehorn. My copies were very quiet except for these two first track issues.

Is it possible that your review copies are inspected prior to being sent to you? Just wondering...

Audiobill's picture

According to your friends at Music Direct: "Cut by Kevin Gray and Pressed at RTI"

Michael Fremer's picture
Identifies Kevin Gray as the mastering engineer. Not sure why you needed to go to Music Direct to get that information. Thanks for the RTI info though.
Ruxtonvet's picture

There is a digital footprint that is audible to this recording. I would love to hear her in a pure analogue format.

LondonCalling's picture

I bought this album last weekend and think its fantastic. However I too have issues with side 1 of the album. I'm figuring it is a non-fill issue (sounds like scraping against the groove) which begins on track 1 and continues intermittently through to the intro of the final track which is such a shame since all 3 of the other sides play fine apart from a single pop midway through side 3.
I guess it'll have to go back which will mean a few weeks without this wonderful album. My concern is that the replacement may be no better.
Anyway there goes my first post, pity it's a negative one.

orangeaudio's picture

vinyl. Thanks for you review Michael!