Kurt Elling and Cécile McLorin Salvant dazzle at Cadogan Hall

In contemplating last weekend’s LJF gala events, I had every expectation of a perfect three-way vocal experience. First up it was to be Cécile McLorin Salvant on Saturday at Cadogan Hall, someone new to me but fresh and exciting, then the more familiar Allen Toussaint and his New Orleans songs at the Barbican on Sunday and finally, a day later, the unique Kurt Elling back again at Cadogan Hall. Sadly, as the whole world knows, Allen Toussaint passed away in Madrid following his concert appearance there and a house-full ticket refund was the outcome. This, given Cassandra Wilson’s difficult night at the RFH the same evening must have made Sunday a Serious nightmare, although director John Cumming assured me that other events that night more than made up for it.

Salvant is still young, and radiates a kind of innocent joy, taking each song on a journey of discovery, playing games with tempo and pitch and delighting in the entire concert experience. Clad in a cape-like throw striped in green and mauve, with black and white striped leggings, and wearing her trademark white-framed specs, she had dressed to kill and she did, evoking a continuous array of reactions from whoops to cheers and back again. Happily, for those of us who know her albums, she had her first-call band with her, notably the brilliant pianist Aaron Diehl, a man whose John Lewis-like classic touch and vivid imagination makes him an equal partner in the Salvant concert enterprise. Add in bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Laurence Leathers and you have a compelling package that should continue to entrance international concertgoers for decades to come.  

She sings in French on some songs, these mostly self-composed, echoing her part-French origins and sounds sweet when she does, but it’s her evocations of classic songs that seem to prompt her most profound explorations. Just to hear her sing ‘I Wish I Could Shimmy’ at the slowest possible pace is enlightening as was the more suggestive ‘You Gotta Give Me Some’ from the Bessie Smith repertoire, Salvant arch and delighting in its in-built innuendo. This showed off Diehl’s stride chops and had the trio kicking hard, ahead of ‘Something Coming’ from West Side Story, again with the pianist’s filigree touch foregrounded. Salvant is the real deal, a vocalist who takes risks, listens to her accompanists and improvises irresistibly in the moment.

KurtElling MG 4579

Elling radiates bonhomie too, but is more theatrical, grittier maybe, his grey suit tightly buttoned, standing firm, like a Chicagoan should, hands outstretched, as that great tree-trunk of a baritone voice resonates and builds into an almost operatic series of crescendos. He had already made a guest appearance with The Swingles, the clever close-harmony group who opened for him. Here he commenced his set with a straight reading of ‘La Vie En Rose’ which seemed like a tribute to those who had lost their lives in Paris, before he let rip with ‘Come Fly With Me’, this featuring a lengthy, florid solo excursion by pianist/organist Stu Mindeman, the vocal ascending as the band built behind him, Elling moving way beyond Sinatra’s template. This was a bravura performance as was ‘Nature Boy’, the lyrics subtly changed, and suffused with a scat routine of quite dazzling virtuosity, with drummer Ulysses Owens Jr, matching him lick for lick.

There were speeches, even a burst of poetry and a sense of heartfelt concern for victims of violence everywhere from Elling, plus a modest plug for Passion World, his latest album, from which a number of these songs were drawn. ‘Skylark’, taken for another technically accomplished outing was the encore, before Elling bowed, the band (completed by bassist Clarke Sommers and the versatile guitarist John McLean) readying to move on to Helsinki on Tuesday. He’s a man of incredible, harnessed drive, huge vocal energy, and very possibly the finest jazz vocalist on the planet.

– Peter Vacher

– Photos by Roger Thomas

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apocalypse to Pizza Express

Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apoc…

Perhaps it's a canny coincidence that's there's a tune on...

Read More.....
Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

  On stage, Marlene Verplanck stood quite still, diminutive and always...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter Jazzfest

Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter …

Winter Jazzfest is a big deal in New York City...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet captivate at Kings Place

Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quart…

The conventions of a jazz performance are so well established...

Read More.....
Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Award-winning saxophonist and Jazzwise 2017 end-of-year-chart podium-maker Denys Baptiste curates...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy and Roller Trio added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppar…

Things are hotting up for this year's 22nd edition of...

Read More.....
Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new album and tour

Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new a…

Vibrant vibes-led group Cloudmakers – the long-running trio featuring vibes...

Read More.....
Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Peter Whittingham Award

Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Pet…

Emerging Scottish saxophonist/bandleader Helena Kay (pictured) has been announced as...

Read More.....
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Classic Album Sunday sessions at Jazz Café

Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Class…

Camden Town's revamped Jazz Cafe presents series of album playbacks...

Read More.....
Pharoah Sanders Flips Lids Alongside Vilnius Fest's International Cast (Mama Jazz Report Pt.2)

Pharoah Sanders Flips Lids Alongside Vil…

Vilnius Mama Jazz is the younger sibling of the three-decades-old Vilnius...

Read More.....
Impulse! Records signs Sons Of Kemet and Shabaka & The Ancestors

Impulse! Records signs Sons Of Kemet and…

British saxophonist and bandleader Shabaka Hutchings and two of the...

Read More.....
Roswell Rudd 17/11/35 – 21/12/17

Roswell Rudd 17/11/35 – 21/12/17

Trombonist Roswell Rudd, who lost his battle with cancer at...

Read More.....
Gilles Peterson presents new generation of UK jazz on We Out Here

Gilles Peterson presents new generation …

The current wave of young UK jazz is showcased on...

Read More.....
Liudas Mockūnas Leads Lithuanian Charge At Vilnius' Mother Of All Jazz Fest (Mama Jazz Report Pt.1)

Liudas Mockūnas Leads Lithuanian Charge …

The absolute highlight of the Vilnius Mama Jazz festival was a...

Read More.....
Jazzwise wishes you all Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Jazzwise wishes you all Merry Christmas …

Jazzwise daily news will return January 2018. Wishing all our readers...

Read More.....
John Critchinson 1934 – 2017

John Critchinson 1934 – 2017

If popularity could be measured in monetary terms, then John...

Read More.....
Kurt Elling and Tommy Smith make midwinter magic with the SNJO

Kurt Elling and Tommy Smith make midwint…

There's a case for Christmas concerts staged in venerable Scottish...

Read More.....
Binker & Moses Captivate With Calypso-Influenced Improv At Helsinki's We Jazz

Binker & Moses Captivate With Calyps…

As Finland celebrates its centenary as an independent state this...

Read More.....
Sunny Murray 1937 – 2017

Sunny Murray 1937 – 2017

  Drummer Sunny Murray, who passed away on 7 December, will...

Read More.....
Fifth edition of Jazz FM Awards to take place on International Jazz Day in 2018

Fifth edition of Jazz FM Awards to take …

The Jazz FM Awards will return in 2018 at Shoreditch...

Read More.....
Theo Croker Cracks Corker At Jazz Jantar, Gdańsk

Theo Croker Cracks Corker At Jazz Jantar…

Jazz Jantar is one of the less well-known Polish festivals...

Read More.....
Diplomatic Don: Kurt Elling Crosses Borders In St. Petersburg

Diplomatic Don: Kurt Elling Crosses Bord…

Being an American jazz singer in St. Petersburg is a...

Read More.....
Columbia/Legacy’s Bootleg Series continues with Vol.6 Miles Davis & John Coltrane - The Final Tour

Columbia/Legacy’s Bootleg Series continu…

The widely acclaimed Miles Davis Bootleg Series issues its sixth...

Read More.....
Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans Goes Dutch at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans Goes Dutch at P…

Award-winning Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans (above) is set to play...

Read More.....
Headliners Huff-N-Puff As Tomeka Reid Shines At Jazztopad

Headliners Huff-N-Puff As Tomeka Reid Sh…

  This 14th edition of the nine-day Jazztopad festival in Wroclaw...

Read More.....
Braxton Cracks On With Harp-Heavy OTO Residency

Braxton Cracks On With Harp-Heavy OTO Re…

Celebrated saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton brings his semi-scripted gamut...

Read More.....
Vula Viel, Nérija and Sloth Racket engage at Elgar Room

Vula Viel, Nérija and Sloth Racket engag…

The Royal Albert Hall's highly accommodating venue-within-a-venue the Elgar Room...

Read More.....
Ben Riley 17/07/33 – 18/11/17

Ben Riley 17/07/33 – 18/11/17

This year's Thelonious Monk centenary events have rightly focused on...

Read More.....
George Avakian 15/3/1919 – 22/11/2017

George Avakian 15/3/1919 – 22/11/2017

  There never was a jazz record producer more important than...

Read More.....
Haino Hands On The Benjamins

Haino Hands On The Benjamins

Japanese ultra-shaman Keiji Haino has hooked up with US sludge-metal...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell, Franco D'Andrea feat. Han Bennink and the Italian new wave signal JAZZMI's ambition

Bill Frisell, Franco D'Andrea feat. Han …

 Milan's new jazz festival is inspired by London and it's...

Read More.....
Sun Ra Arkestra, Maceo Parker and Interchange Dectet gather for Gateshead 2018

Sun Ra Arkestra, Maceo Parker and Interc…

The line-up for next year's Gateshead International Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....
Donny McCaslin, Dinosaur and Jason Moran added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2018 programme

Donny McCaslin, Dinosaur and Jason Moran…

The first names have been announced for the 22nd edition...

Read More.....
Mike Stern trips back to top form at Ronnie Scott’s

Mike Stern trips back to top form at Ron…

"Awesome!'' "That's great!" "Thank you so much". Mike Stern's bonhomie...

Read More.....
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society sound sinister and sublime at Kings Place

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society sound…

  There are very few composers now writing world class material...

Read More.....
The Thing Ring The Changes At Rich Mix

The Thing Ring The Changes At Rich Mix

To prise apart the increasingly converging din of his two...

Read More.....

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Friday avant-metal jazz feeling with Atheist https://t.co/O5fn4J0t8k @KirkdaleBooks @avantgardejazz @GrimKim… https://t.co/a363gCETtP
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Seeing Yo La Tengo light up Twitter-Town reminds of this, their boogie-vicious version of Sun Ra's anti-atomic ass-… https://t.co/NtXueLYelK
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter

 

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA