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Cécile McLorin Salvant's "Ghost Song"

Justin Steyer
Cécile McLorin Salvant at KNKX, 2014

Cécile McLorin Salvant has developed a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between musical traditions from around the world. Her latest album, Ghost Song, focuses on the themes of ghosts, nostalgia, and yearning.

Cécile McLorin Salvant, a 2020 MacArthur Fellow and three-time Grammy Award winner, is a singer and composer who brings historical perspective, a renewed sense of drama, and an enlightened musical understanding to both jazz standards and her own original compositions.

Classically trained, steeped in jazz, blues, and folk, and drawing from musical theater and vaudeville, Salvant performs a wide-ranging repertoire.

Salvant started classical piano studies at 5, sang in a children’s choir at 8, and started classical voice lessons as a teenager. Later, she received a bachelor’s degree in French law from the Université Pierre-Mendes France in Grenoble, while also studying baroque music and jazz at the Darius Milhaud Music Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Salvant wrote the story, lyrics, and music for her work Ogresse, arranged for a thirteen-piece orchestra of multi-instrumentalists. Ogresse premiered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Ogresse is in development to become an animated feature-length film, which Salvant will direct.

Salvant is also a graphic artist, often illustrating her music with drawings, fabric art and embroidery.

Ghost Song, Salvant's latest album, contains a mix of seven originals and five interpretations on the themes of ghosts, nostalgia, and yearning.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve done before," Salvant says. "It’s getting closer to reflecting my personality as an eclectic curator. I’m embracing my weirdness!”

Cécile McLorin Salvant - Ghost Song (Official Video)

“All the songs on the album kind of mirror each other," says Salvant. "I tried to create this strange symmetry. So as you go in from both ends, the songs are sort of matched together. They’re like fraternal twins, or one is the evil twin of the other. I, as the living, am visited by the ghost, and then I go visit the ghost in turn. I am haunting the ghost and annoying the ghost, which is saying, ‘Get out of here and go live.’"

Cécile McLorin Salvant will appear for two nights performing the music of Ghost Song at Jazz at Lincoln Center in May (details here).

Listen for "Moon Song" from Cécile McLorin Salvant's Ghost Song on KNKX Midday and Evening Jazz.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.