Show #15: The Talented Cecile McLorin Salvant

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Back in April, I did a post of 7 Singers with New CD’s I Really Like. I covered a rising new star that I want to remind people about: Cecile McLorin Salvant. She is not to be missed! This 23 year old singer can do a wide range of styles and she does everything very carefully–to perfection. Her new album is called Woman Child and in this week’s on demand show, we have an exclusive interview and live session with her.

She grew up in Florida, born to a French mother and a Haitian father. French was her first language and growing up she was steeped in chanson, as well as, Haitian music. I was impressed talking with her: she expresses her thoughts with precision and care. She’s way beyond her years.

I first heard her on a new album from French jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson, called Gouache (watercolor). On it she sings an old French love song, “Je Te Veux”. I was immediately struck: her voice was rich and smooth as velvet. Perfect elocution and intonation, perfect phrasing too. She reminded me of an obscure American jazz singer named, Jeanne Lee.

Salvant began classical piano at age 5, sang in the Miami Choral Society and then studied classical voice with both private teachers and later with Edward Walker, vocal teacher at the University of Miami. After high school, she went to Aix-en-Provence in Southern France to study law, then classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud University. There she met Jean-Francois Bonnel, who taught her improvisation, and repertoire from the last century, both pop and classical, Francophone and in English.

Cecile McLorin Salvant – Woman Child (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

In other words, she did a lot to prepare for her stunning debut, Woman Child. The new album features jazz standards like “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”, as well as classic blues and folk songs like “St. Louis Gal” and “John Henry”.

Suffice to say, I’m a huge fan of Cecile’s. So is Wynton Marsalis who said, “She has poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace…” I can’t do any better than that!

Click below to listen to the show with my interview and live session.


Here is an exclusive clip of the song, “St. Louis Gal” from our session we did with her a few weeks ago. She impressed all of us…tremendously.

Here is an interview in her flawless French (her first language).