REVIEW: Cécile McLorin Salvant at Cadogan Hall (2015 EFG LJF)

Cécile McLorin Salvant at Cadogan Hall
Photo credit : Paul Wood

Cécile McLorin Salvant
(Cadogan Hall, EFG LJF. 14 November 2015. Review by Peter Jones.)

Still only 26, Cécile McLorin Salvant has already arrived at a certain… grandeur. Viewed in many quarters as the inheritor of the official Jazz Goddess mantle previously worn by Holiday, Vaughan and Fitzgerald, Salvant is certainly the full package: a huge vocal range, formidable control and power, a highly intelligent gift for lyrical interpretation, and a deep knowledge of music, both American and French.

As if to underline this last fact, her material is self-consciously classic - it feels like Hollywood in the studio era: at the Cadogan Hall, she sang almost nothing written in the last half-century (her own composition Monday being, I believe, the sole exception).

There were songs from the shows (The Trolley Song, from Meet Me In St Louis); tunes from the songwriters’ pantheon (three on the trot by Cole Porter - I Get A Kick Out Of You, So In Love, and the lesser-known but brilliant Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love); old-time blues (two from Bessie Smith); and a selection of beautiful, haunting French songs (including La Route Enchantée, from a 1938 film, and Le Mal de Vivre, by 1960s singer Barbara). These she would probably have sung anyway, but they took on a particular significance in the light of the unfolding horror in Paris.

Cécile McLorin Salvant - Photo credit Paul Wood

Despite the pall that those events have cast over the whole Festival, Salvant still managed to inject some humour into the gig, not only in the arena of sexual politics (including an ominously reharmonised Wives and Lovers), but also religion: I found myself wondering whether it’s even legal in today’s God-fearing America to sing It Ain’t Necessarily So. And there was some good old-fashioned filth from the ever-reliable Bessie Smith, with You’ve Got To Give Me Some. She also brings to light some songs we may have forgotten or never knew about in the first place, such as the sly Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh number When In Rome (I Do As The Romans Do).

There was so much to enjoy, but where Salvant can still improve, I think, is to break away from rehearsed arrangements sometimes, and allow herself and the band to loosen up and settle into a groove: some numbers had a rather brittle, stop-start quality. To put it another way, we could have done with less Barbra Streisand, and more Madeleine Peyroux.

Salvant was ably backed by Aaron Diehl on piano, Paul Sikivie on bass and Lawrence Leathers on drums.

LINK: Cecile Mclorin Salvant at the 2015 Berlin Jazz Festival

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