Cécile McLorin Salvant / Aaron Diehl Trio @ Ronnie Scott’s

Just like a polished crystal

Words: Erminia Yardley
Photos: Carl Hyde

Line up: Cecile McLorin Salvant – vocal, Aaron Diehl – piano, Paul Sikivie – bass, Lawrence Leathers – drums

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Irving Berlin wrote “Let’s face the music and dance” in 1936 and this song has been covered, as many know, by many artists, but when Miss Salvant decides to open her show at Ronnies with this track, having followed quietly her band onto the stage, then we all know we are in for a good show.
She starts singing softly, distinctively enunciating and perfectly pitching, it is difficult not to be mesmerized by such style: a class of her own.
To borrow a line from a recent Lancôme’s advert “in a world full of dictates and conventions, could there be another way?” – and the answer, in this case, is YES, THERE COULD DEFINITELY BE: Cécile McLorin Salvant.
For those new to Salvant’s universe, she was born and raised in Miami, Florida from a French mother and a Haitian father. Having studied classical and baroque voice at the University of Miami, Cecile moved to Aix-en-Provence in France in 2007. This proves a memorable time for her and two years later she records her first album “Cécile” with Jean-François Bonnel’s Paris Quintet. This album is a must listen!
She has gone from strength to strength since then. Growing and improving, offering a diverse range, showing unique taste and talent.
Worth highlighting as well the fact that we are in the presence of yet another great artist coming from the stables of that amazing label that is Mack Avenue Records (founded in 1999 – headquartered in Michigan, USA).
Salvant’s tones change from deep to soft, so when Ethel Waters’ song “Sweet Man Blues” is announced, there is a slight hush in the audience, it transpires not many know the great Ethel after Cécile asks the crowd, but luckily with Ms Salvant’s rendition, a lot of them now will. Cecile’s voice is clear; there is an immediate entendre with the crowd. She not only sings perfectly, but she can act, too and she can make one smile and laugh.
I am impressed by her choice of songs for the evening, the audience is treated by a majestic rendition of Cole Porter’s “So in love” with another of Porter’s songs being given a special treatment “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love” – sung with panache and gravitas.
Leonard Bernstein’s “Glitter and be gay” is a merry tune with a slight operatic twist giving Miss Salvant yet another ace up her multi-talented sleeve. A perfectly executed song.
The whole experience of watching this artist sing and perform is re-emphasized by the support of such incredible trio like the one she has on the two nights she plays at Ronnies. Aaron Diehl on piano is simply impeccable and sophisticated. He knows and anticipates her every note.
When Cécile sings, one feels a whole new world opens up, there are long and sad words sung with pain and intensity, and a clear example is when she sings Fran Landesman’s songs, “Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most”, this leaves one breathless.

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Cecile then moves on to cheer the audience back up with a stupendous rendition of “The Trolley Song” written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and performed originally by Judy Garland in the 1944 film “Meet me in St Louis” it is simply a stunning interpretation. Here Aaron Diehl’s piano follows Cécile’s voice flawlessly.
The second set starts with a song written by Cécile and taken from her forthcoming album which will be released in the late summer, her voice is marked by soulful tones, she enters the stage so softly and yet once can feel the sheer power of her stage presence.
Mademoiselle Chameleon aka Miss Salvant then drifts onto a funny and potent “The Stepsisters’ Lament” from the musical Cinderella. The female part of the audience is in awe and in rapture for such choice of a song. Hilariously rendered.
Note to female readers: please take time to listen to this song, it will ring true!
Burt Bacharach’s “Wives and Lovers” is an intriguing choice, performed uptempo by the great Aaron Diehl, Cécile’s voice is triumphant whilst singing this tune whose suggestions now ring very old-fashioned and, if truth be told, rather sexist.
Heading towards valediction, another interesting choice of song “You bring out the savage in me” is performed with intelligent bravura, offering the cherry on the cake that is Lawrence Leathers’s solo on drums. This is hypnotic, sending the crowd into a trance. A rare moment. “Never will I marry” from the 1960 Broadway musical “Greenwillow” is special and, again, a different choice.
The end of the second set is marked by another song composed by Cécile, but it is with the encore, a soulful blues lament which is sung with such forlorn notes, it brought tears to my eyes, that Cécile bids farewell to Ronnies and to a crowd in full ecstasy.

Cécile Mclorin Salvant is a resplendent Sirius in a dimly lit Universe.

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travelling the spaceways since 1993