The Prickle (@ThePrickle) October 11, 2017
Cécile McLorin Salvant spots songs, vocal lines and narratives that have escaped the rest of our collective gaze. Here at Ronnie Scott’s she presents them, drawing from her new album Dreams and Daggers. It is a lesson in poise, connection and story-telling all underpinned by simply captivating technique.
One of the most striking elements of Cécile’s style is the honesty and clarity of both her notes and lyrics. Her enunciation is so delicate and exact it is impossible to not be drawn into every ounce of every word, lassoing the audience with stories of love, loss and lament. With this control, she then delivers often devastating counter-punches from nowhere. ‘If A Girl Isn’t Pretty’ (from Funny Girl) start merrily enough and suddenly isn’t so funny as the chanteuse’s intensity of focus and delivery allows us to really dwell on what these words mean. “We’re going to continue with more problematic songs,” she smiles sweetly before easing into Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Black, Brown and White’ which does as she says.
A further key component of Cécile’s growing stature and reputation is undoubtedly her musical partnership with pianist Aaron Diehl. He possesses a complementary deftness of touch and humour in his music which is a perfect rhythmic balance. Paul Sikivie (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums) complete the group tonight admirably as they carve comely lines in her songs and discover fresh colours in old pieces. Here also is the why McLorin Salvant so excites the jazz world. She is both an exceptional original creator whilst simultaneously playing the role of custodian, archeologist, curator, anthropologist and musicologist. Her song choice is a lesson not only in the spirit of the American Songbook but also a fascinating exposition of what it is to be a human at the centre of these works.
Each song in Cécile McLorin Salvant’s set is like a piece of theatre: scenes from a play that she’s writing, fragments of the chapters of her life. There is an immersive depth to her singing that is all at once the smooth and unpredictable like a marble running down a course of its own gleeful devising. Her performances are spell-binding and it is a thrill to think that this is just the beginning.
Dreams and Daggers is out now on Mack Avenue.