It would not be possible, if she didn’t bravely put herself out there. But she did and the results are phenomenal.
Finally, Cécile’s new album! I’ve been waiting excitingly the whole summer and I have not been let down. It exceeded my expectations and every time I listen to it, I find new ways to appreciate it. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a vocal jazz album so much. And that makes me extremely happy – music like this is rare and precious!
I’ve written about Cécile McLorin Salvant before; she is an incredible, young singer based in New York. It is often said she extends the lineage of the great singers in jazz before her; Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Bessie Smith. Once you hear her it’s easy to see why. And it’s not just the singers. You can also easily spot other influences, such as Thelonious Monk and Louis Armstrong for example.
If you haven’t already, I recommend you listen to her first album WomanChild. It’s a great start and shows perfectly why she’s so loved and adored by both critics and fans. It’s also interesting to note how it differs from For One to Love. But more about that a bit later.
For One to Love is absolutely striking – Cécile has outdone herself! It’s beautiful, sincere and precious. There’s something about Cécile’s music that draws one in completely. I can’t put a finger on it, but a big part of it has to be the authenticity and intimacy of it.
It’s also exactly what makes this album stand out. It’s not easy to find music like this. And Cécile’s ability to express herself so fully makes it all seem so simple. I love how she has these amazing vocal skills, but never uses them for their own sake. She uses them very deliberately, always to bring a point across. She doesn’t show off. And she doesn’t have to. Her expressiveness is much more powerful than any technical fireworks could ever be.
The incredible broadness of her expression is matched only by her choice in songs. I really appreciate these choices – they’re refreshing. She seamlessly jumps from an original song to a show tune to a standard to a song from a musical back to an original song. Yet no matter the song, she creates magic. This actually reminds me of Louis Armstrong; he could be given any song and create a masterpiece out of it. And Cécile is the same. She picks these songs and makes them say exactly what she wants them to say. She brings such a fresh air to them and makes them feel completely new. And they all fit together, even though they are taken not only from different contexts but also completely different periods! That’s not an easy task.
I mean, listen to what she did with The Trolley Song or how she channels Bessie Smith on What’s the Matter Now?. Or the theatrical performance of Growlin’ Dan. And how all of these sound so fresh and relevant, regardless of their age. Mix in the incomparable originals like Fog, Look at Me, and the heart-breaking Left Over and marvel at how it all fits together.
All of this is amazing. But by far my favorite thing about this album is the intimacy of it. I’ve been listening to her previous album and noticing how it has most of the same qualities I’m talking about here. However it’s not nearly as intimate as this one. Hell, when listening to Cécile on this album it sounds like you’re listening to a friend. You feel you know her. She is telling you a secret. She is bravely and trustingly sharing her experiences. And because of that, the album swallows you whole. It takes you with it. You want to listen what she has to say. You sympathise. You relate to what she’s saying. You want to listen to her talk to you. And because she is so good at expressing herself, you know exactly what she’s talking about. Not understand. You know it, deep down.
This would not be possible, if she didn’t bravely put herself out there. But she did and the results are phenomenal.
Singers are often praised for many things, but you rarely hear them commended for bravery. Yet I am convinced that the courage of self-exposure is an especially rare skill, and not the least of the virtues of the finest singers. If I had the power to award medals for artistic bravery—what a marvelous idea, an honor for courageous love in the musical field, not war on the battlefield!—I wouldn’t hesitate before giving one out for this album. – from liner notes by Ted Giola
Let’s not forget that all of these amazing qualities shine through partly because of the amazing band that supports her in these creations. Aaron Diehl’s ingenuity on the piano kills me every time.
I seriously love this album. Seeing and hearing what Cecile has shown us so far, I have no doubt that she’s only getting started. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead!
And that makes me happy. Thank you, Cécile.