EIF 2023 Cécile McLorin Salvant in Concert Usher Hall 7th August Review
Cécile McLorin Salvant in Concert at the Usher Hall Edinburgh this evening was a one-date concert, part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, that gave all of us there the chance to catch up with one of the most innovative creative performers in the world of jazz (and far further afield).
Together with the Cécile McLorin Salvant Quartet - Sullivan Fortner (piano), Savannah Harris (drums) Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Weedie Braimah (percussion), we were given an eclectic set-list, (often with very special arrangements) over some 70 or so minutes that often drew upon songs and music from classic films for its source material.
Cécile McLorin Salvant is wide ranging in her interests and as Saturday 5th performance of “Ogresse” clearly shows, an artist who sees music of all genres and origins as threads in a far larger creative tapestry, and just how they are going to be woven today for her, only Cécile McLorin Salvant really knows. Who else would think of the music from “The Wizard of Oz” meeting sounds of Gregory Porter (sort of)? I suppose that when you have songs by Harorld Arlen and the creativity to re-imagine them, then anything is possible. This audience, judging by the applause, certainly appreciated Cécile McLorin Salvant’s emotional take on “Over The Rainbow”. The presence of Judy Garland in film was also here this evening with a very unique arrangement of “The Trolley Song”.
If there was a thread of connectivity to this wide-ranging set-list of songs it was either that they have been performed by iconic singers or written by truly great songwriters, and Cécile McLorin Salvant’s performance and the band’s arrangement of Burt Bacharach’s “Promises, Promises” was exceptional.
Songs performed by another performing icon of her generation, Barbra Streisand, also got their own very distinctive performance and whilst “Don’t Rain On My Parade” (written by Jule Styne), from “Funny Girl” may have been a more obvious choice for a “Streisand” song, “Where is It Written” from “Yentl” was a good surprise and it was so refreshing to hear a performer tell an audience that they were singing this song for theirself, just because they liked it so much.
Classic film songs were of course only part of this concert. Pirate Jenny from “The Threepenny Opera” was brought to life on stage in a way that only the best performers can do, by telling you a story and drawing you completely into the people that inhabit the world of that song. Few songs in recent years though have the power in their words of “Build A House” by Rhiannon Giddens” and although for me this song always works best at its simplest of arrangements, Cécile McLorin Salvant’s vocals and performance more than gave it the power and rhythm that it requires.
Not everything tonight was an arrangement of other people’s songs, and “Fenestra” and “Doudou”, both performed in French, gave us all an insight into just how special and creative a composer in her own right Cécile McLorin Salvant is.
A very special performance from Cécile McLorin Salvant this evening, but a note has to be left here too for a very special quartet. Here, Sullivan Fortner (piano) and Yasushi Nakamura (bass) so often got the opportunity to show what a very special musical relationship that they seem to have with Cécile McLorin Salvant and her music on stage. Whenever the arrangements required it, Weedie Braimah (percussion) and Savannah Harris (drums) were also integral parts of the often very complex arrangements of songs for this concert.
Review by Tom King © 2023