Tag Archives: jazz singing

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Setlist 12/16/17


It looks like this phenomenal 28-year-old singer Cécile McLorin Salvant was actually my last previous post. Anyway, here’s the skinny on her second set at Scullers on Saturday night, the fourth of the weekend, with pianist Sullivan Fortner, a reprise of their April appearance.

Since that appearance in April, McLorin Salvant has released the double-disc Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue). She did a couple of those songs in the set I saw, but here are the basics. From the outset, she said they’d be performing love songs.

“I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” (“The first standard I fell in love with.” Included on Dreams and Daggers.)

“Tell Me Why” (Introduced as a Jo Stafford song)

“Were Thine That Special Face” (From Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate.)

“An Occasional Man” (With no introduction, but appears to be from the musical-comedy film “The Girl Rush,” 1955, directed by Robert Pirosh, with Rosalind Russell, songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, this song sung by Gloria DeHaven as Taffy Tremaine.)

“You Go to My Head”  (Coots/Gillespie, 1938, “the thrill of the thought that you might give a thought to my plea.”)

“Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before” (By Bob Dorough, “a lot of lyrics.”)

“The Gentleman Is a Dope” (Introduced as “by Richard Rodgers,” no mention of Oscar Hammerstein. From the 1947 musical Allegro. Also was sung by Jo Stafford, but McLorin Salvant didn’t mention that. I guess she’s been listening to Jo.)

“Send in the Clowns” (Which McLorin Salvant said she sang at her sister’s wedding, 12 years ago, as a 16-year-old. “I just thought it was a pretty song.” She cued Fortner by saying, “by Sondheim, you know which one,” and he answered, “It’s the only one I know.”)

“I Get a Kick Out of You” (Which she said she and Fortner had never played together before, although they’d played it separately.)

“The Christmas Song” (Big exaggerated groan from Fortner, because: another song they’d never done before. They kept pushing up the key. Fortner finally appealed to the audience, “You want to hear it high?” Anyway, up to D, with no perceptible strain.)

ENCORE: “You’re Getting To Be a Habit with Me” (Included on Dreams and Daggers.)

-Dec. 17, 2017

Nicky Schrire at Scullers: Beyond Words


Nicky Schrire is a 27-year-old South African, now living in New York, who is one of the new breed of jazz singer. She clearly identifies as jazz, but her book is not standards-driven. Covers tend to come from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright, and even Florence Welch of indie-rock darlings Florence and the Machine. And, unlike jazz singers of yore, she writes a lot of her own material. Though her approach has earned her comparisons to Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens, the similarities are superficial. Like Parlato, she’s an assured technician with a whole bag of impressive tricks. Like Stevens and, for that matter, Esperanza Spalding, she has an affinity for folk. But, as she shows on her only disc, Freedom Flight, and as she showed at Scullers on Thursday night with her quartet, she’s got her own thing, and it’s very much worth listening to.

At Scullers, she started with an original, “Together,” which began with a single interval repeated in the piano, then rhythm on hand percussion, and then a wordless major-key melody. Schrire does a lot of wordless singing. Her lyrics are simple, homespun, skirting sentimentality even when their purpose is straightforward affirmation (“We will cross this land together”). Her “jazz” is in her chords and in those wordless melodies and the improvisations they inspire. This isn’t “scat” singing — none of the note-stuffed runs of bebop syllables, but more of a simple ooh-ahh, om-bah-yay approach, with lots of long held notes sketching the arc of a melody.

On “Together” she worked the song into high held tones that seemed to take the band with her into more agitated rhythms and then catapulted them into their own series of solos. She sings with little or no vibrato, which also helps account for the unaffected directness of her approach. Songs sometime climax with her improvising in a pure tone way up in her top register, like a bird darting on an updraft. And there’s a logic to Schrire’s  wordless passages — sometimes they’re introductory, as if she’s gradually finding her way to the lyrics that fit her memories or emotions, and sometimes they take off from the lyrics as if to feelings that words can not express.

Schrire’s band members weren’t just improvising on chord changes, but playing the songs (during the night she took duo turns with each). Pianist Glenn Zaleski and bassist Sam Anning always kept the melodies in close sight, often just paraphrasing them outright. Drummer Jake Goldbas not only had a strong arsenal of rhythms, but a great touch, never overwhelming the singer even when he was playing hard.

Schrire does sing some standards, of course. (Her book includes “If Ever I Would Leave You” and “Someone To Watch Over Me.”). At Scullers she didn’t offer any Great American Songbook fare, but she sang the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” (relishing the opportunity to land on and play with the repetition of “sun, sun, sun, here it comes”). The humor in Loudon Wainwright’s “The Swimming Song” made for tickling improvisatory extremes. And an a cappella encore of the Bobby McFerrin arrangement of “Blackbird” gave her a chance to show off her technique, melding improvisations on the melody with her own hocketing rhythmic accompaniment.

Schrire’s new album, Space and Time, is due at the end of August. If we’re lucky, that will mean another visit to Boston soon.