• Corporate philanthropy

#JazzPortraits: Cécile McLorin Salvant, a suave, unique voice

Cécile McLorin Salvant(Opens in a new tab) is considered one of today’s best jazz vocalists. Wynton Marsalis, the first artist to win a Grammy for both jazz and classical music, said a singer like her comes along only “once every two generations”. The winner of many awards, today her fame crosses musical borders. Here’s a portrait of Cécile McLorin Salvant, a vocalist with a suave, unique voice, supported by the BNP Paribas Foundation.

The Window: compositions, standards and forgotten treasures 

Cécile(Opens in a new tab)’s fifth album The Window, which earned the singer her third Grammy, features standards and forgotten treasures from across all genres of music, from jazz to soul, rhythm’n’blues and French variety. She re-appropriates them, personalises them and make them hers, bringing a remarkable authenticity to each interpretation.

Listen to Cécile singing Aretha Franklin’s 1965 One Step Ahead

She alternates between original compositions and covers, from Aretha Franklin to Richard Rodgers and Stevie Wonder’s Visions(Opens in a new tab), the first song on the album, which provides a glimpse of her immense vocal range. She showcases her francophone identity with a brilliant version of J’ai le cafard, a 1926 song popularised by Damia and Frehel. Most of the songs on her albums are about love, but Cécile only considers them a pretext to explore the sense of self.

I chose Tell Me Why(Opens in a new tab), a very beautiful love song, because it’s about an ideal, a knight in shining armour who would come along to save the heroine...  What made me want to sing it is that she tells him,  ‘You’re not like that knight. You’re not like him.’  The idea is that despite your ideal, you might find yourself completely attracted by something very different from what you dreamed of.” 

Interview with Culturebox(Opens in a new tab)

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Cécile McLorin Salvant usually sings with a pianist, bassist and drummer, but for The Window she chose to be accompanied by pianist Sullivan Fortner, whose playing is very varied. Returning to the purest tradition of the piano-voice duo gives them the flexibility to improvise and room to be original and fanciful. They alternate between styles, beats and periods for deep, dynamic, ethereal, harmonically rich and perfectly balanced tunes. 

Listen to Tell Me Why

A brilliant performer, Cécile must be seen on stage. In fact, most of the songs on her albums were recorded live at New York’s Village Vanguard.  She’ll be on tour in France at lieu unique(Opens in a new tab) in Nantes and the Festival Jazz sous les Pommiers(Opens in a new tab) in Coutances. 

Discover Cécile McLorin Salvant and other artists supported by the Foundation through the BNP Paribas Foundation’s All That Jazz playlist  

Listen(Opens in a new tab) (unavailable link)

Photos  ©Mark Fitton 
©tanya78

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