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Review: Cécile McLorin Salvant at Regattabar, Cambridge

Phenomenal young singer is equally savvy with standards and originals

Cécile McLorin Salvant

The phenomenal 24-year-old vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant sold out her first set at the Regattabar this past weekend, and the room was nearly as full when she brought her quartet out for the night’s second set. Only a quarter of the dozen songs she would perform in the late show came from WomanChild, her splendid recent release from Mack Avenue Records, but she proved equally masterful on the expanded repertoire of well-chosen standards.

The set opened with “I Only Have Eyes for You,” with Salvant, in her trademark white glasses and a black-and-white print dress, improvising like a horn on the tune’s familiar lyrics, stretching their duration to suit her mood, and playfully tossing in references to “big, fat bug eyes” as the tune neared its end. Her gifted pianist from the album, Aaron Diehl, contributed a fine solo, and Paul Sikivie’s walking bass and drummer Pete Van Nostrand’s brushes provided able rhythmic accompaniment. “Nobody,” a classic from the album with a comic edge, which Salvant noted had been written by Bert Williams in 1905, was up next. It began with a frilly piano intro, and then Salvant sang the narrator’s sad story drolly, with Diehl stepping in partway through with a solo wild enough to make himself smile.

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