LIVE: Cécile McLorin Salvant & Aaron Diehl Trio @ Bard College’s Fisher Center, 5/8/15

Cecile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl
Cecile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl

Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday was last month, so there are many tributes and celebrations of the occasion throughout the jazz world. One of the best of these was at the beautiful Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, sponsored by Catskill Jazz Factory.

Cécile McLorin Salvant is a jazz singer whose lineage can clearly be traced back to the old masters – Lady Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan – yet she is not merely an imitator; she is further developing their form. At the young age of 25, she certainly has her own style. She not only digs into the emotion of what she sings with her voice, but also uses her expressive face and hand gestures to get to the very heart of the music.

The resignation and sadness of a woman who is being cheated on by her lover in “Don’t Explain” is expressed by the start-and-stop beat of the musical accompaniment and the considerable dynamics of her voice.

The novelty song, “Jeepers Creepers,” was sung with the playful joy of a child… and child’s orchestra.

The risqué lyrics of “Do Your Duty” were shouted more in the style of the song’s writer, blues queen Bessie Smith, than Holiday’s version of the song.

“Them There Eyes” exhibited more of a Dixieland influence than the swing versions that Holiday recorded.

Saved for the encore was a heartwrenching rendition of “Strange Fruit,” the song about lynching that generated great controversy in its day due to its subject and graphic description. Holiday frequently sang it in concert but had to record for a label she normally did not record for due to the controversy.

And the evening closed with “Moonlight,” performed in a more contemporary fashion featuring a drum solo by Lawrence Leathers.

Pianist Aaron Diehl made most of the arrangements. His trio of Leathers and bassist Paul Sikivie was supplemented with the saxophone/clarinets of Dan Block and Will Anderson, the trumpet of Jon-Erik Kellso and the guitar of Adam Moezinia, expanding the sound and making it fuller, closer to Holiday’s earlier recordings.

Salvant and Diehl were last in Nippertown in March as part of the inaugural Bridge Jazz Festival at Albany’s Massry Center for the Arts, where they were clearly the favorite of fans and critics alike. Hopefully, they will schedule another performance in our area in the near future, and when they do, don’t miss them.

Lets (Thad Jones)
Having Myself A Time
My Old Flame
I’ll Get by as Long as I Have You
Hello My Darling
Jeepers Creepers
On the Sentimental Side
Miss Brown to You
St. Louis
Forget if You Can
Lover Come Back to Me
You Go to My Head
Don’t Explain
Do Your Duty
Deep Song
Them There Eyes
Strange Fruit

Cécile McLorin Salvant
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Aaron Diehl
Aaron Diehl
Cecile McLorin Salvant, Dan Block, John Erik Kelso and Will Anderson
Cecile McLorin Salvant, Dan Block, Jon-Erik Kellso and Will Anderson
Adam Moezina
Adam Moezinia
Paul Sikivie and Lawrence Leathers
Paul Sikivie and Lawrence Leathers
Cecile McLorin Salvant and band
Cecile McLorin Salvant and band
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