Cécile McLorin Salvant : For One to Love

Though it was actually her second full-length release, on the strength of one album, 2013’s WomanChild, Cécile McLorin Salvant vaulted from Miami-born Monk competition victor to the world’s most celebrated female jazz vocalist. It’s mighty tough to follow so massive a critical and popular hit. Given, however, the depth and breadth of Salvant’s musical gifts, it’s hardly surprising that For One to Love is even more impressive.

Sly and sensuous, partial to featherlight flights yet solid as oak, Salvant is preternaturally brilliant at synthesizing a century’s worth of influences—shades of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Blossom Dearie are clearly evident—while remaining her mesmeric self. And in pianist Aaron Diehl, also featured on WomanChild, she has found an ideally simpatico partner. Joining them are bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers.

Salvant satisfies her penchant for Clarence Williams tunes with a bluesy “What’s the Matter Now?” and her predilection for all things French with singer-songwriter Barbara’s pensive “La Mal de Vivre.” (Her mother is from France, father from Haiti.) The remaining tracks are split between cunning covers—Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Stepsisters’ Lament,” Sondheim and Bernstein’s “Something’s Coming” and, in her effort to survey the full panoply of relationships, even Bacharach and David’s coy yet sexist “Wives and Lovers”—and insightfully personal originals. All of her compositions, ranging from the parked-on-the-sidelines heartache of “Look at Me” and “Left Over” to the ensnaring desire that drives “Fog” and the undulating “Monday,” are superbly crafted: sharp, intense and profound.

Originally Published