Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant’s illustrations are whimsical and charming, her handwriting round and neat. Both grace the cover of her new album, Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue), revealing yet another dimension of Salvant’s artistic self. Whether with a song or a pen, Salvant is a master at conjuring up captivating images.
Salvant recorded just over half of the new album at Village Vanguard about a year ago with the same team that played on her 2016 Grammy-winning album, For One To Love (Mack Avenue)—pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist/arranger Paul Sikivie, and drummer Laurence Leathers. The rest of the album is a studio recording with the Catalyst Quartet providing strings on—most notably—the four originals to which Salvant contributed either music, lyrics, or both.
Each luscious moment on the two-disk recording moves unerringly into the next; if it weren’t for the applause and cheers from the audience on the live sections you’d never notice that Salvant had changed rooms. (Then again, given Salvant’s riveting performance on this album, you probably wouldn’t notice if the room were on fire.) Some standout moments: her tongue-in-cheek delivery on “If A Girl Ain’t Pretty”; a rambunctious version of Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now”; and Salvant’s gut-wrenching musical adaptation of Langston Hughes’ “Fascination.” Salvant will launch the CD on Sept 26-Oct 1 at Village Vanguard from the same stage where she recorded it last year.
As a child, New York Voices member Lauren Kinhan developed her own fascination with singer Nancy Wilson, listening again and again to Wilson’s 1961 collaboration with pianist Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderly (Capitol). Five of the tunes from this iconic recording inspired Kinhan to record A Sleeping Bee (Dotted i), her unique take on 10 tunes that Wilson popularized from 1961-64. Even though this is Kinhan’s first all-standards album, her approach to the material is anything but conventional: with her big, flexible voice, Kinhan brings the passion of a soul singer to the improvisatory reach of a jazz diva. This powerful combination transforms classics like “Never Will I Marry” and “Save Your Love For Me” from charming tunes into Kinhan’s personal declarations of creative independence. A Sleeping Bee drops on Oct 6.
Listening to Benny Benack III’s originals it’s easy to forget that they were written in the 21st century, and his fiery trumpet sections come as a surprise after his crooning baritone lays down a gently swinging melody. Yet these Songbook-ish originals, lyric vocals, and effervescent horn solos do indeed emanate from the same contemporary jazz musician. Benack’s debut CD, One Of A Kind (BB3 Productions) features eight of his own originals, some with vocals, some without, each one a close cousin to the Tin Pan Alley favorites that inspired Benack’s musicianship. Emmet Cohen, Bernack’s pianist, also contributes one piece—“You Already Know,” the hardest swinging tune on the album and a showcase for Benack’s tandem playing with guest player, saxophonist Joel Frahm. It would be tempting to compare Benack to other singer/trumpeters like Chet Baker or Louie Armstrong, but such comparisons would miss the mark. Benack is simply his own thing. He’ll be at Smoke on Oct 26 to launch One Of A Kind.
In 1994 singer Jay Clayton went into the studio with pianist Fred Hersch to record a duo album of love songs for the Sunnyside label. Last month Sunnyside released the remastered version of this vintage album—Beautiful Love, a decade of songs that fully plumb the musical depth of these two artists. What distinguishes Clayton and Hersch from others—and makes them such a perfect pairing—is their shared musical vision: spacious, meditative improvisation as a medium of connection and loss. This month Clayton, a leader in the free vocal improv movement in 1970s New York City, joins the faculty of Princeton University’s music department.
In 2010 singer Fay Victor attended a workshop for musicians in upstate New York, where she met Austrian pianist Elisabeth Harnik and UK bassist Dominic Lash. These musicians, inspired by the wildlife outside their door each day, formed the ensemble ReDDeer Trio, which just released New York – St. Johann (Evil Rabbit), a live recording their improvised performances in Austria and New York City. The trio is rarely in the same city at the same time, so they don’t get much opportunity to perform together. However, you can catch Victor this month at Spectrum Loft Space on Oct 6, Roulette on Oct 12, and 55 Bar on Oct 26.
(Reprinted from the October issue of The New York City Jazz Record.)