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.” And so it was.
In 2014, she won 4 categories in the Down Beat Critics Poll: Jazz Album of the Year, Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist, and Rising Star–Female Vocalist. Furthermore, four out of five of her albums have received a Grammy nomination and three of them (For one to love, Dreams and Daggers and The Window) won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Album in 2016, 2018 and 2019 respectively. And she doesn’t seem to stop here.
The musical universe that Salvant manages to create combines jazz and blues, with elements of folk and musical theatre. She has this very special ability to understand the complexity and the monumental past of the genre, but also the potential it has and the directions that can be explored nowadays, as noticed by Pitchfork contributor Stephen M. Deusner when describing her latest album, The Window.
“Among Salvant’s most distinguishing artistic traits is how she makes those tonal shifts not just exciting but meaningful. Her craft is undeniable, but built into her craft is the freshness of encountering each tune as though for the first time, figuring it out in the moment from one note to the next”, he adds.