Cécile McLorin Salvant grew up in a bilingual household in Miami, the child of a French mother and Haitian father. She started piano studies at age five, and at eight began singing with the Miami Choral Society. After graduating high school, McLorin Salvant decided to pursue her education in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. In this unlikely setting, she embarked on a new career as a jazz performer, while pursuing a degree in French law and her training as a classical and baroque singer.
Shortly before the release of Cécile McLorin Salvant’s debut Mack Avenue album WomanChild, critic Ben Ratliff made a bold prediction in the pages of the New York Times. McLorin Salvant, he claimed, “is still mostly unknown to jazz audiences”—then added: “though not for much longer.”
McLorin Salvant has more than validated that forecast. The last 3 years have been a whirlwind of success and acclaim for the young vocalist, who first came to the attention of jazz fans with her triumph at the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. WomanChild went on to earn a bevy of honors, including a GRAMMY® Award-nomination and selection as Jazz Album of The Year by the DownBeat International Critics Poll.
Her 2016 Grammy Award-winning album, For One To Love may be the defining jazz statement on romance in the new millennium, a heartfelt album that both embodies the full range of the American popular song idiom, but distills it into a distinctly personal expression of a modern-day poet-troubadour.
On For One To Love, McLorin Salvant shows her uncanny knack of channeling her own personality into the work of her predecessors, both the acclaimed (Bessie Smith) and the less well-known (Blanche Calloway, whose fame during her lifetime was eclipsed by her brother Cab). “I’ve made some choices about celebrating strong women,” McLorin Salvant explains. “And I want to celebrate independence, the courage not to look or act a certain way.”
She’s taking another big leap forward with Dreams and Daggers, her highly-anticipated third album for Mack Avenue Records, (released on September 29, 2017), for which she received the GRAMMY® Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. McLorin Salvant says of this project, “The songs on this album are of dreams and daggers. The daggers have been used at times to attack, at times to defend. For power, no doubt, to take it, to keep it. The dreams are the ones I caught looking out a window, or from the light sleep before the deep. I don’t always know what they mean, but they are the ones I was able to keep. And yet dreams can be desires too. I wrote them down to make them true. That we may bring our wildness into view. That we may be unruled and unruly.”
"If anyone can extend the lineage of the Big Three – Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald – it is this 28-year-old virtuoso.” – Stephen Holden in the New York Times.