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CULTURE | 05.03.2018

Playlist: “Dreams and Daggers” by Cécile McLorin Salvant

“You get a singer like this once in a generation or two,” Wynton Marsalis once said of Cécile McLorin Salvant – and as artistic director of jazz at Lincoln Center he must know best. At a mere 28 years old, McLorin Salvant is already celebrated as a jazz icon of our time – no wonder then that her new album “Dreams and Daggers” just earned her a second Grammy.

Although she grew up listening to music of all kind – from reggae to chanson to rap – in her parents’ home in Florida – her father is Haitian, her mother French – McLorin Salvant knew from a young age that she wanted to become a classical opera singer. It was only when she attended the Darius Milhaud Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence at age 18 that she discovered jazz for herself – especially Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Betty Carter – and realized she had a gift for this music.

The best proof are the 23 songs of “Dreams and Daggers”, which was recorded at New York’s legendary jazz club Village Vanguard: She manages to make 80-year-old classics such as Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now” sound up-to-date and modern. The almost ten-minute-long “I Never Could Believe” covers such a huge range of vocals and emotions that it keeps listeners riveted until the end. And when she starts singing Billie Holidays “You’re my thrill”, all you want to do is keep listening to this one song over and over again. In it, McLorin Salvant is a near match of her idol – and still brings her own interpretation to the song.