Cécile McLorin Salvant's "Dreams and Daggers" Live at The Village Vanguard

The young jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant’s arrival on the jazz scene began when she entered and won the 2010 Thelonious Monk competition, which annually spotlights a different instrument. That year was a vocal contest. Singing was not the 21 year old’s intended career choice.

Following her well-publicized win the buzz was sustained but of course there are no guarantees in either art or show business. The story of what happened next as well as the remarkable singer’s background is well told in Fred Kaplan’s in-depth New Yorker profile and in less detail in the AnalogPlanet review of Ms. Salvant’s Grammy nominated Mack Avenue Records debut. Her second album, For One to Love, even more ambitious and eclectic nabbed a Grammy.

The next logical step in the recorded part of Ms. Salvant’s career was to record a live album with her trio (Aaron Diehl, piano, Paul Sikivie, bass, Lawrence Leathers, drums). Salvant and her management team chose to record at New York’s legendary Village Vanguard, an usual choice for a vocal recording, though of course there’s a landmark precedent for a piano, bass and drums trio recording produced in the intimate club. At times for but a few bars the trio seems to be channeling the classic Evans trio.

Salvant’s three night Village Vanguard stand September 9th, 10th and 11th 2016 is documented in this nearly two hour, triple LP set, which includes a few short studio tracks with string augmentation that serve as links to the standards.

The eclectic and imaginative A&R work spotlights Salvant’s elastic vocal and emotional range, which ranges from sassy, playful and coquettish to somber. She covers the Broadway show tunes like “Never Will I Marry” taken as a breezy romp, Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You (would be me)” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, Rodgers and Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and other light hearted fare but also “Somehow I Never Could Believe” a dark Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes collaboration and Gershwin’s “My Man is Gone”. She gets the laughs on Jule Styne’s “If A Girl Ain’t Pretty” (from Barbra Streisand's "Funny Girl"), and the personal chills on “You’re My Thrill”. She also wraps her tongue around two tunes popularized by Bessie Smith that are "naughty". There are two Bob Dorough tunes too. The set ends with Ida Cox’s ribald blues “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues” and shows that she can belt it out too. Back for the encore she covers the standard “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me” after which the crowd goes wild. They loved her and you will too. If you zone her out (not easy to do) and pay attention to the trio, you’ll feel the same about them too.

If you’re hoping for Waltz For Debby and Sunday at The Village Vanguard sonics here, don’t worry, you get them and more. Yes, the piano, bass and drums are captured naturally both timbrally and spatially but more to the point is the exquisite presentation of Ms. Salvant’s voice, which is out front riding on a velvety cushion of air. As she works the microphone the room acoustics enter naturally behind her. It’s quite a remarkable engineering job by Damon Whittemore and Todd Whitelock, mixed by Whitelock at ValveTone Studios. Mark Wilder mastered at Battery Studios. Kevin Gray cut lacquers from 192/24 bit files. RTI pressed. Yes, the sound more than favorably compares with those famous Bill Evans albums. You're in the club with Cécile and her trio and it's a place you'll want to be!

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Martin's picture

Is there anywhere we can download the digital files?
From Europe? HD Tracks has a region restriction on her earlier records.

sonnenwender's picture

For the two earlier albums you could try HdTracks in Germany or in the UK or Qobuz in France

Martin's picture

Qobuz has it :-) They even have the site in German :-)

nergenek's picture

You can buy the signed three vinyl album from www.jpc.de ...

Martin's picture

I would love to hear Cécile McLorin Salvant recorded on 45rpm vinyl the way Lyn Stanley has done her records.

I gotta say it, this is the way it should be done. I love Lyn Stanleys stuff, but the syrup, the slush and the mush gets a bit distracting at times. Not that the syrup and slush is a bad thing, but this lady, this is great stuff. Direct, clear, with real feeling.

nergenek's picture

She will be in concert @ BOZAR/Brussels/ Belgium on 27 October 2017...

rwortman's picture

I bought this record because of Mike's enthusing and I can't stand it. The recording is good but the music just isn't, well, musical. Nothing flows, nothing swings. Blech. That's the way music is though. One persons fantastic record is another person's dreck. I wish I knew another jazz fan that lived near me that I could give it to.