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London Jazz Festival: Don’t Rain on Cecile McLorin Salvant’s Parade

Photo by Schorle via by Wikimedia Commons ( licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ opened Salvant’s programme at the London Jazz Festival, and a show stopping parade worthy of ‘the greatest star’ it was. Salvant’s programme of showtune standards, genre-bending covers, and original compositions showcased the kaleidoscopic palette of vocal colours and styles in her repertoire, and her flair for characterful storytelling. She was supported by an equally accomplished ensemble – Sullivan Fortner (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Savannah Harris (drums), and Weedie Braimah (djembe and congas) – each of whom had the opportunity to display their own soloistic virtuosity as well. The performance imbued the Queen Elizabeth Hall with a cabaret-like intimacy, at once homely and exciting, with fans old and new grooving along in their seats.

Amongst classic jazz standards, Salvant’s eclectic programme included a variety of more adventurous and unexpected covers and arrangements. Particularly memorable was her rendition of John Dowland’s ‘Flow not so fast, ye Fountains’, in which her voice opened out from a still treble, becoming fuller and more colourful as the song progressed. The playful use of this trebly vocality contrasted with the powerful and forward-sounding belt in numbers such as ‘Build a House’, and with the vocal agility displayed in the patter-like delivery of ‘The World is Mean’ from Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera. An encore of ‘Wuthering Heights’ cemented the impression of Salvant’s vocal versatility and personality. Although Kate Bush’s original relies upon her distinctive vocal timbre, Salvant both riffed on Bush’s style of delivery and left her own print on the song with her sensitivity. The singer has not only an impressive range, but a variety of vocal colours available to her in each register which ensure no two songs feel the same, but are instead delicately characterised.

The inclusion of duets and smaller textures in the programme allowed the personalities of the instrumentalists to shine through too. Pianist Sullivan Fortner certainly matched Salvant’s versatility, effortlessly moving from sparse lute-like homophony in the Dowland to an almost Lisztian virtuosity elsewhere. Equally impressive were epic solos by Yasushi Nakamura on bass in ‘Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before’ and Weedie Braimah on percussion in ‘Fenestra’.

The tightness of the ensemble and variety of repertoire made for an altogether brilliant performance, but Salvant’s incredible voice, skillful characterisation, and humour stood out on another level, convincing audiences that the performance couldn’t be the last time they get the privilege to hear her.


Edited by Akane Hayashi, Music Editor


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