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Giant Steps: Cecile Mclorin Salvant

Billie said it best, “If I'm going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all.” Easy for Billie to say.

For any female jazz vocalist that came after Billie Holiday finding a way to distinguish yourself from the pack was and is as important as hitting the right notes. And with a history full of Etta’s and Ella’s, Billie’s, Nina’s and Anita’s, it would be easy to follow the tantalizing crumbs of mimicry and venture into the dark woods of idolatry and never finding your way back to your sound.

It’s an issue that Cecile Mclorin Salvant struggled with in her early days. It was the voice of Sarah Vaughan that Cecile studied religiously as a budding vocalist, then Billie Holiday. Of Sarah Vaughn she admits to wanting to sound as much like her as she possible could.  

Now, having released 3 albums and picking up her first Grammy, Cecile has been able to find herself - singularly- among the swirl of the great jazz voices of the past. Cecile has indeed unearthed a tone, a warmth and an approach to music that is uniquely hers. Sometimes the songs she sings go back six or more decades, other times it comes directly from the pen of Cecile herself. Whatever the case close your eyes and in one note,  you’ll know exactly who cradles that microphone. Without a doubt Cecile is one that knows that the past is there to not only look back at in wonder,  but it is there to inform the future.  So as you listen to Cecile Mclorin Salvant --and your ears are tickled by the past, know that you are also hearing a unique present and a brilliant future.

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