Arts Review

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Salvant has a glowing aura of happiness and every note resonates with her joy and enthusiasm for life and jazz!


The QPAC was buzzing for the first-ever Brisbane performance by Jazz artist singer and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant from the US. Amongst her accolades are the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the Duke Artist Award and three consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album. After multiple performances with the iconic Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), who were recently here at the QPAC, it has been a feast for Jazz-loving Queenslanders. Wynton Marsalis director of the JLCO, described Salvant by saying “You only get a singer like this once in a generation or two.”


Local jazz singer Tiana Khasi opened the evening with a guitarist and a bongo player/percussionist as her supporting band. She launched straight into the set crooning to Open the Door with a soft and delicate, yet powerful voice.


She introduced herself as having a ‘license to perform jazz’ after recently gaining her degree from the Brisbane Conservatorium next door. She was excited to be a supporting act to her idol and proud to have Samoan and Indian heritage. She sang several of her sultry compositions and her rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s Black Coffee was fabulous. She sang her final song as a love song to the land in Samoan with a soft balsa wooded tone, she promises to have a bright future as a jazz and soul performer and was very well received.


Salvant greeted the audience with a beaming smile resplendent in pink and opened immediately with One Step whilst she regaled the audience at close quarters bending over to the front row with a broad smile. She had the typical Jazz accompaniment with pianist Sullivan Fortner, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Jazz drummer Kyle Poole.


The troupe had just arrived from Miami after a 22-hour flight and were about to embark on a several-month World tour starting in Brisbane. Despite their weariness, all three were energetic and professional, each taking turns at solos during the twelve songs including a cool Whiplash moment from Poole.


Highlights of a spectacular show were J.C. Johnson’s Haunted House Blues, from 1924 and sung by Bessie Smith. Salvant with spookily brilliant reproducing the piercing whoooooooos normally done on a siren whistle. She was grinning in delight as her voice soared to the rafters of the concert hall, rattling the organ pipes! Salvant is certainly no diva despite her accolades, has a glowing aura of happiness and every note resonates with her joy and enthusiasm for life and jazz.


I was surprised that she also relished singing showtunes and knocked off several witty interpretations from The Sound of Music including How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? It seemed to perfectly match her naughty audaciousness and wit. Her Barbara song from Brecht’s Threepenny Opera was also hilarious as she oozed suggestion in every lyric ending in a piercing NO!


She also performed two of her own compositions, Moonsong and Fog which were two lovely sultry songs enabling her to display her incredible vocal depth of range and tone. She finished with the powerful Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music commenting afterwards that it was featured in an episode of her favourite show Seinfeld, and that we must all watch Voice Mail, a really funny episode.


After a full standing ovation, the band returned with the funniest song of all, Not Getting Married Today from Stephen Sondheim's musical, Company. She rattled off the complicated tongue twisters at a gabbling pace with glee for a fabulous finish. It was not the moody highbrow jazz concert I was expecting and instead was an entertaining chocolate box of delights from one of the greatest singers of our time! 



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