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12 November 2021
"The Jazz Foundation of America is an organization that helps the world of American jazz in a variety of ways. As with all sectors, the jazz world has not been spared by the Covid-19 pandemic. The daily consequences are often dramatic for many musicians. 7 major jazz labels (Blue Note Records, Concord Music Group, Mack Avenue Music Group, Nonesuch Records, Universal Music Group, Verve Label Group and Warner Music Group) have decided to join forces and offer this compilation, from which all profits will be donated to this emergency fund."Jazzmania, 01-2-2022
In the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement achieved its greatest moments, gifted bassist and composer Christian McBride was not yet born. As a child in the 1970s, he learned the history of the movement in school, but due to a quirk of fate – his grandmother’s fortunate propensity for saving old things – he found another source of information that spoke to him on a more emotionally accessible level than history books.
“When I was a kid, I used to spend hours looking at old copies of Ebony and Jet magazines that my grandmother saved,” he says. “To read contemporaneous writings by black writers about events and people who were my history – our history – that was absolutely fascinating to me. It was the greatest gift my grandmother could have given to me.”
That gift played a major role in the creation of The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons, McBride’s stunning masterpiece about “the struggle,” which is now a 20 year-long, continuously evolving project. The work combines elements of jazz, gospel, big band, swing, symphony, theater and dramatic spoken word, in a clear-eyed yet optimistic look at where our society has come from and where it is hopefully headed.
Born in Philadelphia, McBride was a gifted musical prodigy who soaked up influences from every direction. At the tender age of 17, he was recruited by saxophonist Bobby Watson to join his group, Horizon. During the 1990s, he proceeded to work with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard and Chick Corea as well as major pop and rock stars like Sting, Paul McCartney, James Brown and Celine Dion. His abilities were also coveted by the classical music world, including opera legends Kathleen Battle and Renee Fleming.
In 1998, a musical commission from the Portland (Maine) Arts Society set in motion what would eventually become a major part of his life’s work. The only stipulation for the commission was that it had to include a choir. “At that time, I called it a musical portrait of the Civil Rights Movement,” Christian says. “I thought about those times and decided that rather than try to write a history of the movement, I wanted to evoke its spirit and feeling.”
More than any other artist in traditional jazz today, saxophonist/composer/arranger Kenny Garrett and his band are known to entice audiences to want to get up and groove. Be it in Spain where a man from Cameroon leaped up and broke out some African moves then was joined by a young break-dancer, or in Germany where a clearly classically trained ballet dancer was brought to his feet; in Poland where a fan literally jumped from the balcony onto the stage to dance, or at a festival in Barbados where music lovers got on up and grooved in the rain to “Happy People,” the spectacle is always the same: the spirit takes over and the movements come naturally. It is this spirit that Garrett has instigated and witnessed from stages around the world that fills Do Your Dance!—the saxophonist’s fourth for Mack Avenue Records.
“I look out and see people waiting for the songs that they can party to and express themselves,” confirms Garrett, the nine-time winner of DownBeat’s Reader’s Poll for Alto Saxophonist of the Year. “Do Your Dance! was inspired by audiences moved to rise from their seats and ‘lift a foot!’ Some are reluctant to participate because they think that others are better than they are. I tell them, ‘Do your dance.’ That means even if you have to ‘stay pocket,’ do the Funky Four Corners or the Nae-Nae, don’t worry about what the other person is doing. Let it all hang out and ‘do your dance!’ On the title track we combine the spirit of a `70s-style beach get down with just a touch of hip-hop—ever in search of the link between the two. I had it playing while I was talking to my daughter on Facetime. When it got to the end with that new vibe, she smiled and I thought, ‘Uh huh—gotcha!’”
Do Your Dance! is a travelogue of rhythm from the melodic lilt of “Calypso Chant” and the soothing, Brazil- inspired “Bossa” to the summer barbecue spirit of “Backyard Groove” and “Philly.” Kenny elaborates, “‘Philly’ was inspired by people at an outdoor festival we played down the street from Temple University. That older generation was going in—dancing to hard bop, funkafied fire and calypso...anything we threw at them! That’s how people used to dance to jazz.”
The world first learned of the incredible vocal artistry of Cécile McLorin Salvant when she won the prestigious 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. In just under the span of a decade she has evolved from a darling of jazz critics and fans, to a multi-GRAMMY® Award winner, to a prescient and fearless voice in music today.
In life and in music, McLorin Salvant’s path has been unorthodox. The child of a French mother and Haitian father, she was raised in the rich cultural and musical mix of Miami. She began formal piano studies at age five and started singing with the Miami Choral Society at age eight. Growing up in a bilingual household, she was exposed to a wide variety of music from around the world through her parents wide-ranging record collection. While jazz was part of this rich mix, her adolescent and teenage years were focused on singing classical music and Broadway. Following her desire to study abroad, she enrolled in college (Aix-en-Provence in the south of France) to study opera and law. Ironically, it was in France that McLorin Salvant began to really discover the deep roots of jazz and American music, with the guidance of instructor and jazz saxophonist, Jean-François Bonnel. Bonnel’s mentoring included bringing McLorin Salvant stacks of CDs, covering the work of jazz and blues legends as well as its lesser-known contributors. Working through these recordings, McLorin Salvant began building the foundation needed to thrive and occupy a special place in the august company of her predecessors.
Three years later, McLorin Salvant returned to the US to compete in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. On the urging of her mother she entered the contest, but with little sense of what was awaiting her. The expatriate American jazz singer from France, surprising everyone (herself included), took top honors in the jazz world’s most demanding competition. An illustrious panel of judges – Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Patti Austin and Al Jarreau – noted her impeccable vocal technique, innate musicality, and gifts as an interpreter of popular song. “She brought down the house,” reported the Washington Post. Yet, as music critic Ann Midgett observed, “Her marathon is just beginning.”
Since 2010, McLorin Salvant has soared to the top of the music world, garnering praise and gathering awards. “She has poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace,” announced Wynton Marsalis. “You get a singer like this once in a generation or two.” She has been honored with top spots in DownBeat’s critic’s polls in the categories of “Jazz Album of the Year” and “Top Female Vocalist.” NPR Music has awarded her “Best Jazz Vocal Album of the Year” and “Best Jazz Vocalist.” Her debut album, WomanChild (2013), received a GRAMMY® nomination. And her following releases, For One to Love (2015) and Dreams and Daggers (2017), both won GRAMMY® Awards for “Best Jazz Vocal Album.”
McLorin Salvant is a singer whose unique style demonstrates a keen sense of the history of jazz and American music. Among her peers she is unique in the breadth and depth of her repertoire. She fearlessly performs songs from jazz’s roots in minstrel shows and ragtime, like Bert William’s “Nobody” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Murder Ballad.” She digs deep into blues queens like Bessie Smith and Ida Cox, bringing out the mix of jubilation and sorrow that is at the core of the blues. She sings from both the center and the periphery of the Great American Songbook, unearthing forgotten songs while offering fresh interpretations of well-known standards and enlivening Broadway gems with jazzy accents. Beyond the borders of American music, she also is an expert interpreter of Francophone chansons and cabaret numbers, tracing the influence of jazz across the globe, and retracing her own personal path as a musician from America to France and back again. If that weren’t enough, McLorin Salvant is also a gifted composer whose moving additions to the repertoire reflect her unique perspective on love, life, and womanhood.
Her gifts as an artist are rooted in her intensive study of the history of American Music and her uncanny ability to curate its treasures for her audience. Her albums are explorations of the immense repository of experience and feeling that abound in popular song. She understands the special role of the musician to find and share the emotions and messages in music that speak to our past, present and future. “I am not interested in the idea of relevance,” she explains. “I am interested in the idea of presence. I want to communicate across time, through time, play with time.”
All of McLorin Salvant’s study, training, creativity, intelligence, and artistry come together in her voice. The sound of her voice, to borrow a phrase, “contains multitudes.” It covers the gamut from breathy to bold, deep and husky to high and resonant, limpid to bluesy, with a clarity and richness that is nearly unparalleled. When she first burst onto the jazz scene, many listeners were struck by her ability to recall the sound of Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, or Betty Carter. Yet with each new album, McLorin Salvant’s voice has become more her own, more singular. While conjuring the spirits of the ancestors, her references are controlled, focused, and purposeful. Her remarkable vocal technique never overshadows her rich interpretations of songs both familiar and obscure.
Critics praise McLorin Salvant’s gifts as an interpreter of popular song. “The marvel of Cécile McLorin Salvant is the complexity of her point of view as an artist,” writes David Hajdu in the pages of The Nation. “Like most jazz and cabaret singers, she works in a milieu that is essentially interpretive…But she chooses her material so astutely, and interprets it so adroitly, that the songs come across like the personal expression of an idiosyncratic individual with an utterly contemporary sensibility.” She inhabits the inner life of a lyric, shading them with subtle, often ironic poignancies through the use of vocal inflections, improvisations, varied phrasing, and articulation. Fred Kaplan of the New Yorker praises her “emotional range” and her ability to “inhabit different personas in the course of a song, sometimes even a phrase – delivering the lyrics in a faithful spirit while also commenting on them, mining them for unexpected drama and wit." In McLorin Salvant’s own words, “I think there is a lot of room for improvisation and surprise while still singing the lyric, and when that is successfully done it can express a great deal of emotion and reveal the different layers in the music and in the text all at once.”
Onstage, her persona is often compared to that of an actress. But, as McLorin Salvant notes, “jazz would not be what it is without its theatrical origins, vaudeville, and minstrel shows.” Through her selection of repertory and brilliant interpretations, she “plays with time,” making the musical past speak to our contemporary world. Her unflinching performance of songs from the minstrel tradition, such as Bert William’s “Nobody,” challenge us to think harder about race in America today. Her ironic, even sinister, rendition of songs like “Wives and Lovers” explore the complex intertwining of sex, gender and power. Her blues numbers are bawdy and vibrant, melancholic and forlorn, insistent and emancipatory. She sings of the ecstasy and agony of love, of jubilation and dejection, of desire and being desired, of fearlessness and fragility. “I want to get as close to the center of the song as I can,” McLorin Salvant explains. “When I find something beautiful and touching I try to get close to it and share that with the audience.” Immersed in the song and yet completely in control, McLorin Salvant brings her immense personality to the music – daring, witty, playful, honest and mischievous.
Each new recording by McLorin Salvant reveals new aspects of her artistry. WomanChild and For One to Love established her style, her command, and interpretive range. Dreams and Daggers is a work that highlights her fresh and fearless approach to art that transcends the conventional – live and in the studio, with a trio and with a string quartet, standards and original compositions – held together by a vocal delivery that cuts against the grain, ever deepening, intensifying and nuancing the lyrics.
The Jazz Foundation of America is an organization that helps the world of American jazz in a variety of ways.
As with all sectors, the jazz world has not been spared by the Covid-19 pandemic. The daily consequences are often dramatic for many musicians. 7 major jazz labels (Blue Note Records, Concord Music Group, Mack Avenue Music Group, Nonesuch Records, Universal Music Group, Verve Label Group and Warner Music Group) have decided to join forces and offer this compilation, from which all profits will be donated to this emergency fund.
...a colorful musical spectrum. Very nice...
it would all be meaningless if the music didn’t deliver. It should come as no great surprise that it does.