Cecile McLorin-Salvant’s voice is a stunning instrument. Impossibly clear, devastatingly powerful, almost casually virtuosic, with a range that can slide from wine-cellar low to skyscraper high, sometimes in the same breath. Her most recent album, 2015’s For One To Love, is such a confident display of jazz talent that it’s difficult to believe she’s only 26 years old. Her interpretations of standards by Oscar Hammerstein, Bacharach, and David and Leonard Bernstein are alternately playful, menacing, and heartbreakingly sweet. It seems that she can slip into character as easily as one slips into clothing.
For One To Love would be amazing enough as a collection of covers, but McLorin-Salvant can write as well as she sings. The opening track, “Fog,” is a remarkably atmospheric tune that seems to linger in the air like its namesake, haunting and eerie and blurred at the edges. It’s this staggering level of talent that’s led to an avalanche of critical acclaim, from the New York Times, The Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times, not to mention Down Beat magazine. McLorin-Salvant took home four awards from the venerable jazz publication in 2014, including Jazz Album of the Year (for her 2013 release Woman/Child), Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist, and Rising Star–Female Vocalist. And if that weren’t enough proof of her talents, she won her first Grammy in 2016 for Best Jazz Vocal Album. With a potent combination of songwriting prowess, classical training and jazz instincts, it’s incredible to think about how much further she can go.