Cécile McLorin Salvant was born and raised in Miami, Florida of a French mother and a Haitian father. She started classical piano studies at 5, and began singing in the Miami Choral Society at 8. Early on, she developed an interest in classical voice, began studying with private instructors, and later with Edward Walker, vocal teacher at the University of Miami. Salvant graduated from Coral Reef High School’s International Baccalaureate Academy in 2007 where she received the highly prestigious National Achievement Scholarship.
In 2007, Salvant moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, to study political science, classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory. It was in Aix-en-Provence, with reedist and teacher Jean-François Bonnel, that she started learning about improvisation, instrumental and vocal repertoire ranging from the 1910s on, and sang with her first band. In 2009, after a series of concerts in Paris, she recorded her first album, “Cécile”, with Jean-François Bonnel’s Paris Quintet. A year later, she won the Thelonious Monk Competition in Washington D.C.
Salvant performs unique interpretations of unknown and scarcely recorded jazz and blues compositions. She focuses on a theatrical, and sometimes ironic, portrayal of the jazz standard and is just beginning to compose her own instrumental pieces and songs. She is also starting to sing in French, her native language as well as in Spanish. She enjoys growing popularity in Europe and in the United States, performing in clubs, concert halls, spiegeltents, and festivals accompanied by renowned musicians like Jean-Francois Bonnel, Rodney Whitaker, Aaron Diehl, Dan Nimmer, Jonathan Batiste, Jacky Terrasson… She sings for the 2nd consecutive year for the Chanel’s Chance ad campaign.
Ben Ratliff, of the New York Times: “…She was funny and dire and idiosyncratic, and never cutesy-flirty or mannered-hip…As she sang her less-than-obvious set choices … she stamped out the lines with authority and power and a bit of outrageousness, as if they were home truths, not history assignments. She zeroed in on notes, sang at crawling tempos more than once, made her voice into a creaking door, a fog…, then a laser. She stayed on pitch and grew unnervingly quiet in the end verses of the Bessie Smith, turning the song, about refusing a rough man’s advances, into an extravagant story. She put the house band’s players at ease, keeping close watch over solos…She seemed fresh, but also as if she had decided long ago that she was an artist.”
Salvant has performed at numerous festivals such as Jazz à Vienne, Ascona, Whitley Bay, Montauban, Foix, with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York’s Lincoln Center and Chicago’s Symphony Center and with her own band at the Kennedy Center, the Spoleto Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival and other venues.
Salvant will be singing alongside the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in Miami on Friday, December 20. On this first-time tour, the Orchestra, which recently topped the Big Band Category in Downbeat magazine’s 2013 Reader’s Poll, will perform Swing-era and new big band arrangements of timeless holiday tunes. Salvant, will be featured on soulful renditions of the season’s most festive songs.
TO?GO: Friday, December 20. 8pm. $75 – $120. Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd; Miami. For info: arshtcenter.org