Cecile McLorin Salvant: Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue/Southbound)

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Runnin' Wild
Cecile McLorin Salvant: Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue/Southbound)

Although this Grammy-winning jazz singer is probably on very few people's scanner right now, no doubt that will change in the run-up to her appearances at the New Zealand Arts Festival in Wellington and the Auckland Festival next March.

With a small group – and studio strings in a few places – she here spreads her considerable vocal and lyric writing talents across two discs, and reaches from originals to Noel Coward's Mad About the Boy, Somehow I Never Could Believe (lyrics by Langston Hughes, music by Kurt Weil), Irving Berlin's The Best Thing For You and Let's Face the Music and Dance, to Rodgers and Harts' I Didn't Know What The Time Was.

With a classically flexible and warm voice which can dip smokey and low yet also works with almost coy intimacy in the many quiet songs, she is quite the talent . . . and the fact some of this was recorded live at the Village Vanguard confirms she can project this in front of an audience.

She's also amusing (her sudden and sharp attention-getting “maaaad” on Mad About the Boy) and certainly not attached to staking a claim on the future until she has explored the nuances of the past (as witnessed by the decades-wide spread of material here).

This all offers a reassurance to those who like their vocal jazz in a tradition which touches the blues (the sassy Sam Jones' Blues and You've Got to Give Me Some), the more obscure footnotes in the Great American Songbook (Frank Loesser's Never Will I Marry, Jule Styne's If a Girl Ain't Pretty) and just a smidgen of cabaret risque.

One of the most highly acclaimed of America's jazz singers, the sophisticated Cecile McLorin Salvant is a name to become acquainted with before booking your tickets for that Wellington festival.

This new double album is an impressive and expansive introduction.

Cecile McLorin Salvant and the Aaron Diehl Trio play the New Zealand Festival, Wellington Tuesday March 13 (Michael Fowler Centre, 8pm) and the Auckland Festival Thursday March 15 (Auckland Town Hall, 7pm) 

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