Tuesday, March 13
This was always likely to be one of the festival highlights – Miami-born, New York-based jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and backing band The Aaron Diehl Trio.
Salvant can sing! Let’s make that instantly clear. For she certainly does. Low register blues grumbles, high and soaring too. There’s a sadness in the voice – she has a Billie Holiday-yearning. She is an encyclopedia of jazz and blues – there’s huge range, huge knowledge and when she drops the mic to waist-height and belts out a song it’s never less than impressive.
The repertoire is curious though. There’s some interesting extrapolations – a drawn-out version of The Beatles’ very slight And I Love Her (pronoun changed). But towards the middle of the set the material starts to feel a bit samey – and though part of Salvant’s thing is to present racist and sexist material, she’s there as narrator and observer, conduit for the song it the bawdy seems tawdry.
Never mind, the band is incredible to hear and watch. In fact I’d have been as happy to hear an all-instrumental set – which feels like a criticism of Salvant and is not meant that way; more to point out just how impressive Aaron Diehl (piano) Kyle Pool (drums) and Paul Sikivie (bass) were, collectively and individually.
Barbra Streisand movie songs and old show tunes were turned on their ear. But something about Salvant seemed detached. Never smug, just something cold in the banter and approach. Clinical.
I guess it’s a strange complaint to make when you’re only expecting something to be extraordinary and instead it’s ‘merely’ great.
I liked it. A lot. But I grew tired of it – wanted more somehow, wanted to feel connected, rather than just impressed.
And quite possibly I’m coming at it from a jaded point of view; three weeks deep this just didn’t resonate as I had anticipated it. Had it been in the first week it would have been the greatest show of the festival. As it was most people seemed to love it. Though, also, it felt, while it was happening, like a passionless light. Polite clapping and dutiful silence. I hate watching jazz in those surrounds.
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