Title: The Window
Artist: Cecile McLorin Salvant
Label: Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 28, 2018
Where does one begin when reviewing a talent as astonishing as Cecil McLorin Salvant? Through years of hard work and training, McLorin Salvant has found a way to combine her operatic background with stylistic aspects of legendary singers—from the percussiveness of Ella Fitzgerald, to the creativity of Sarah Vaughn, to the entrancing story telling ability of Billie Holiday and Carmen McCrae. McLorin has crafted a sound all her own, unveiling new aspects of her artistry with every release. In under a decade, she has become a multi Grammy-award- winning artist, winning Best Vocal Jazz Album for her albums For One To Love (2016) and Dreams and Daggers (2017). Now, with her fourth album for Mack Avenue, The Window, we wait with great anticipation to see what major strides this phenomenal woman will make.
The Window is an album of both live and in-studio duets for which McLorin Salvant has partnered with distinguished jazz pianist Sullivan Fortner. The two come together to explore the endless expressive possibilities of a vocal-piano duo as they freely improvise with everything from the meter to the harmony, playing off of each other perfectly. The two manage to cultivate such a wall of sound on each track that the lack of a full rhythm section almost goes unnoticed.
As the main architect of this 17 track album, McLorin Salvant set out to create a meditative cycle of songs about the “mercurial nature of love,” beginning her journey with a haunting rendition of “Visions” by Stevie Wonder. Listeners are immediately drawn in by a falling piano line from Fortner that’s enough to send chills down your spine, before McLorin Salvant enters so softly with intonation and presence that any singer would be envious. While this live performance is not the version you will hear on the album, it offers just a taste of the power and energy displayed by this duo:
These two work so well together, consistently conveying clear musical conversations while allowing space for each artist to have their own moment to shine. This is especially clear on other stand out tracks such as “Ever Since the One I Loves Been Gone,” “The Sweetest Sound,” and the ever playful “I’ve Got Your Number,” where Fortner lays down a magnificent solo.
One very interesting feature throughout most of McLorin Salvant’s recordings is their lack of reverb. This in conjunction with the interspersion of live tracks, gives the album a very personal quality, as though McLorin Salvant is in the room singing directly to you.
The Window traverses love’s wide universe, from the pleasure of a lover’s touch with its feelings of human communion, to the invisible masks we wear to hide from others and from ourselves. One can easily see that we are witnessing a legend in the making with jazz vocalist Cecil McLorin Salvant.
Reviewed by Jared Griffin