Highly Recommended Concert: CÉCILE MCLORIN SALVANT (Royce Hall at UCLA, January 26, 2023, at 8)

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by Lamont Williams on January 19, 2023

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Hooray and hallelujah! Long before her CDs Ghost Song and Dreams and Daggers — a live double-CD set that won the 2018 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album — I have always been a fan of jazz vocalist and song interpreter extraordinaire Cécile McLorin Salvant. But seeing her live three times now has not only cemented my opinion that this is the most exciting thing in all music — not just jazz — to come along in decades. She is this generation’s most mesmerizing, fascinating, and supreme songstress. Yes, she has that remarkably distinctive voice, but it’s supported by a personality which is an amalgam of combinations: old soul/young upstart; waggish/serious; and controlled/improvisational. At UCLA’s Royce Hall on Jan. 26, 2023, you will get a rare opportunity to see her before she sets out to regions beyond. In fact, this is her only So Cal performance listed for 2023. She will restore your faith in original singer/songwriters who value great songs and storytelling.

With her extraordinary backup band, Salvant will be singing from Ghost Song, which explores the many ways people can be haunted — by lingering memories, roads not taken and ghosts real and imagined. Its disquietingly evocative songs follow living souls as they confront torments of absence — some characters lament loved ones gone too soon, others are troubled by the remnants of vanished romance and still others are paralyzed by the sense of time galloping past. Nothing Salvant has done can quite prepare listeners for the visceral intensity and genre-obliterating atmospheres of Ghost Song. The work draws on the tools she has used in the past, but in new and harrowing ways.

And can we talk about fascinating material? Salvant’s natural curiosity for the history of American music and the connections between jazz, vaudeville, blues, and folk music, informs her unique performance style, which often includes rarely recorded, forgotten songs with strong stories. So, along with standards, sharp original pieces, and lesser-known titles by well-known composers, this savvy singer — in her own idiosyncratic style — brings to our attention overlooked material as well.

Also, the French-Haitian Miami-born 33-year-old plays piano, and sings in French and Spanish. So while the program will be announced from the stage, expect bits and pieces of everything. Picking up where Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald left off, honoring but not imitating them, Cécile McLorin Salvant — fearless and a little shy — isn’t the next best thing, she is the best.

photos by Shawn Michael Jones

CAP UCLA presentsCécile McLorin SalvantThursday, January 26 at 8 p.m.Royce Hall, UCLA10745 Dickson Ct, Los Angeles, CA 90095Tickets start at $39. Artist’s Website: Cécile McLorin Salvant

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