My first (and favorite) time hearing Cécile McLorin Salvant sing was in a simplistic setting with multi-instrumentalist and current Late Show With Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste back in, maybe, 2012. I was working at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem at the time, and McLorin Salvant stopped in to sing a few tunes with Batiste during an intimate listening session event. She had a maturity and cheekiness I had never heard from any living jazz singer, so naturally I was blown away. I hadn’t really been a fan of jazz vocalists outside of Billie, Nina, Sarah, and Ella, so I was so stunned and relieved to hear someone who could hold my favorite songs in the same unique, playful, personal, and devastating way that the legends had. In fact, the part-Haitian, part-French singer noted in a 2016 NPR interview that she “never wanted to sound clean and pretty,” which I love.
Five years later, with a Grammy under her belt, we’ll get another shot at seeing the reigning queen of the jazz scene in an intimate Harlem setting, this time with virtuoso pianist Sullivan Fortner.
Why You Should Go: McLorin Salvant isn’t trying to be a glamorous diva; she will approach the funny songs like a game or someone to dance with, and she’ll take on the songs of suffering and love with a wisdom and rawness that you can’t fake. She’s also a wonderful visual artist, as evident by her pieces on Instagram.
Neighborhood Concert: Cécile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner
Harlem Stage Gatehouse
150 Convent Avenue (at 135th Street)
Thursday, April 20
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