Yes, Cecile McLorin Salvant could well be the leading Jazz singer of the 21st century: A Review of Dreams and Daggers

Cecile McLorin Salvant

I’ve written several times about Cecile McLorin Salvant already, about her amazing album For The One To Love, which also featured in my Top 5 Vocal Jazz albums for 2015. I also already had the pleasure of hearing her live, an outstanding experience.

This young singer has already received so much praise, including a Grammy and a DownBeats critics poll, that I’m hardly presenting you a scoop here, but a new album by such a great artist really needs a blog post!

Dreams and Daggers (MackAvenue 2017)

Cecile McLorin Salvant Dreams and Daggers 24 96 MackAvenue 2017

A couple of initial comments: this is a live album, recorded in 2016 at the legendary Village Vanguard in New York that has given us outstanding live albums already back in the days of Bill Evans. And the recording quality is excellent, you really only notice the live character of this album from the audience´s enthusiastic clapping and her occasional comments to the public.

Second comment: you get a double album here. Some could argue, is this a bit long? Actually not at all, you actually really don’t want this album to end.

Third comment: this album is formally slightly less innovative than the first two ones, you get more Irving and Gershwin standards, and the playing by Aaron Diehl and his great musicians is relatively mainstream. Some of you will take that as a criticism. Actually, not at all!

Because McLorin Salvant manages to put her very personal spin on even old try familiar standards like Devil May Care or You’re My Thrill.

My favorite track is Somehow I never could believe, which starts out as a sensitive ballad where Aaron Diehl already gets to shine in the long intro, but the real hero is Paul Sikivie on bass. And then you get Cecile´s voice, which on this track sometimes is even close to whispering. Amazingly intense.

A note on the title: You have Dreams, representing pretty much what you’d think it means. But what about the Daggers? Well, according to McLorin Salvant, this is about the songs about more complex topics, like feminism, racial identity, self-doubt, that really force you to listen to the lyrics.

This album is a must have for any jazz lover. The year is not yet over, but I´d be surprised if this album doesn’t end up in my personal top Jazz albums for 2017.

In my very first post about her I asked the question in the title Will Cécile McLorin Salvant Become The Most Important Jazz Singer of Our Century?.

Well we obviously still have 83 years to go in this decade, but she’s clearly up to a very good start here.

My rating: 5 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters)

My Top 5 Vocal Jazz Albums of 2015

Following my recent post on my top Classical albums of 2015, let me now follow up with my top 5 Vocal Jazz albums for this year.

Note there are a couple of “only” four star albums here, which means I don’t consider them absolutely essential. That said, I very much like all of the below and would recommend them without hesitation.


Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One To Love (Mack Avenue 2015)

Cecile McLorin Salvant For One To Love MackAvenue 2015

My Jazz album of the year by an outstanding young talent (review here). I’ve seen her live and this was probably one of my best concerts of the year .


Sarah McKenzie: We Could Be Lovers (Impulse 2015)

Sarah McKenzie We Could Be Lovers Impulse 2015

Sarah McKenzie is my other discovery of this year (reviewed here). Less innovative than Cecile McLorin Salvant, she does just old fashioned 1960-style vocal jazz. The thing is, she does it with so much charm and also includes her own originals, I’m convinced we’ll continue hearing from this young artist.

If you can catch her live as I did (see here), go for it, she’s even better live than on this album.


Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth By Day (Legacy Records 2015)

Cassandra Wilson Coming Forth By Day 2015

I’ve said it before, I have a love-hate relationship with Cassandra Wilson. Quite often, she just gets too close to a style that I just don’t like. On this Billie Holiday album, all is well from my perspective (see my review here).


Melody Gardot: Currency of Man (Universal 2015)

Melody Gardot - Currency of Man


To be fair, this is more Soul than Jazz, but in any case, I really like this album. See my review here.


Autour de Nina (Verve 2015)

Autour de Nina Verve Compilation Sophie Hunger Melody Gardot

A beautiful Nina Simone Tribute album from a variety of artists. One of my favorite vocal jazz albums of the year, reviewed here.

Aaron Diehl’s Space, Time, Continuum – Another Young Piano Grandmaster to Watch

These days from my admittedly biased European perspective you could say that all new great Jazz is coming out of Europe these days, especially in the Jazz piano trio space, basically since Esbjörn Svensson brought this art form into the 2000s, taking over a great legacy dating back to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.

This is rubbish admittedly, although I have quite a number of posts in the making (at least in my head) about great artists like Triosence, Giovanni Mirabassi, the Tingvall Trio, Tord Gustavsen, etc., all from Old Europe.

But obviously already Shai Mastro I mentioned last week is from Israel, and the  birthplace of Jazz is still an absolute Jazz hotspot, and I’m jealous of anybody living in NYC for their live scene.

Aaron Diehl

Diehl really is an extraordinary talent. His first non-live album, The Bespoke Man’s Narrative (2013) was already eye-opening, and he certainly is respond for a large part in the appeal that Cecile McLorin Salvant’s debut album Woman Child had on me and many others (the album got a Grammy award nomination).

This guy, born in 1985 in Ohio, is still very young, only two years older than Shai Maestro I recently mentioned. I expect this guy to have a great career, and be part, if needed, of the living proof that Jazz is not dead, but clearly very much alive (unfortunately in too much of a niche habitat).

Space, Time, Continuum

Aaron Diehl Space, Time, Continuum 2015 Mack Avenue

Nice title, first of all. It really illustrates the relevance of punctuation.

Side note, can an album that has a track called Flux Capacitor be bad? (I assume I’ve just given away my age. If you have no idea what a flux capacitor is, think Doc Brown and DeLorean, if that still doesn’t ring a bell, well, you missed an entire decade and will just have to google it yourself).

Diehl plays here with his regular trio of David Wong and Quincy Davis, but this isn’t, except for some selected tracks, a trio album. They are joined, in various permutations, by Bennie Golson, Joe Temperley, Stephen Riley, (sax all of them) and Bruce Harris (on trumpet).

But no matter how many horns you add, the star remains Diehl. He is always present, and very nicely so. What is so special about him, is probably his touch, it always sounds easy and relaxed, no matter how complex the material gets.

On the last track, we even get a guest appearance of Cecile McLorin Salvant. Well, she’s always welcome to pop up anywhere as far as I concerned, she is truly very special. I’m looking forward to her soon to be released new album.
My rating: 4 stars, very enjoyable throughout.

You can get it here or here as downloads..

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