sat 13/07/2024

Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant - Ghost Song | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant - Ghost Song

Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant - Ghost Song

A moving, imaginative, at times laugh-out-loud collection of songs

A never-ending quest for textural surprise: Cécile McLorin Salvant

When 2020 MacArthur Fellow and three-time Grammy Award winner Cécile McLorin Salvant previewed some of the material from her forthcoming album to an enraptured audience at Cadogan Hall as part of last year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, you sensed that something special was in the offing.

But the treasure trove of marvels that is Ghost Song exceeds all expectations.

Whether it’s the unaccompanied fragment of the sean-nós song “Cúirt Bhaile Nua” segueing into Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” (recorded in the beautiful acoustic of St. Malachy’s Church, New York), the imaginative splicing together of a breakneck “Optimistic Voices” with Gregory Porter’s “No Love Dying”, or the beautiful, self-penned “Thunderclouds” (inspired by Marcel Carné’s 1945 film, Children of Paradise), the seven originals and five covers combine to form a moving, imaginative, at times laugh-out-loud whole in what is Salvant’s most memorable statement to date. Other highlights include the haunting refrain of the tender, conversational title track, the venerably ancient folk song, “Unquiet Grave” and “The World Is Mean” from The Threepenny Opera, a work clearly beloved by Salvant.

“When it comes to instruments I love an underdog that no one likes,” Salvant noted when I interviewed her for The Arts Desk. Not only does the banjo make a welcome reappearance in Ghost Song – having previously featured on her 2013 album WomanChild – Salvant’s never-ending quest for textural surprise sees the introduction of lute and theorbo in “Dead Poplar”, which features lyrics excerpted from a letter penned by Alfred Stieglitz to Georgia O’Keefe set to music by Salvant. The brilliant “I Lost My Mind”, on the other hand, is underpinned by the pipe organ which provides an ending of such puissance that it threatens to dislodge your light fittings and one or two tiles from your roof. I’m predicting hurdy gurdy and trumpet marine next time around.


Hear the title track:

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