Music for your speakers: Cecile McLorin Salvant – WomanChild

This wonderful new album was released a few months ago. I know. I know. We only review albums that are at least fifteen years old.

Well all I can say is that this is the album that we have been using regularly on demonstration since we discovered it about two months ago. If it makes you feel any better, the original versions of the first three tracks were written and recorded over seventy years ago.

Cécile McLorin Salvant was born, and raised, in Miami, of a Haitian father and a French mother, in 1989. She made her first album called ‘Cecile’ when she had a year abroad in Aix-en-Provence to study law and political science, and met, and recorded the CD with, her jazz teacher, Jean-Francois Bonnel.

She came back to America where she entered, and won, the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocals Competition in 2010, at the age of twenty-one. The judges that day were, Diane Reeves, Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Al Jarreau and Patti Austin. Wynton Marsalis, who has employed her as a guest singer with his Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra, which he runs in Manhattan, has praised her “poise, elegance, soul, humour, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace”.

Add maturity, and all of this is reflected in WomanChild, where she is supported by a superb trio, with Aaron Diehl on piano, Rodney Whitaker on double bass, and Herlin Riley on drums. James Chirillo guests on guitar, or banjo, on some tracks. All these musicians are regulars in the rhythm section of the JLCO.


There are obvious influences from Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter, but if you listen to what she achieves on ‘What A Little Moonlight Can Do’, a tour de force of a track lasting over eight minutes, you will hear that she is clearly her own woman. Most of the tracks are ideal for demonstration, but of particular note are ‘St Louis Girl’ where she is accompanied just by the guitarist, Fat Waller’s ‘Jitterbug Waltz’ where she sings and plays piano herself, and her own ‘WomanChild’ which showcases the band, as does her version of Rodgers and Hart’s ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was’. WomanChild is an outstanding album from a hugely talented young artist. Catch her at Ronnie Scott’s in late May if you can.

Paul Janove, Grahams Hi Fi, Islington


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