Cecile McLorin Salvant arrived onstage at the Dakota Jazz Club Wednesday night with a smile. She has such a friendly, warm glow about her. That was fitting because for the next 75 minutes, she carried on a conversation, a sublime musical conversation.
The much-acclaimed vocalist, 28, who has won Grammys for best jazz vocal album for the last two of her three albums, sings like she’s having a conversation. Her style is smooth and effortless but still full of emotion, passion and soul.
And then there’s that smile as she peers out from her signature specs.
Salvant’s diction and phrasing were impeccable as she covered a wide range of styles and emotions.
In her second of two shows, she showcased her rich mid-range on “Lush Life,” her slyness on the bluesy, minimalist “Spoonful,” her playfulness on “Jeepers Creepers,” her ability to seamlessly segue from coquettish to sassy in “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” and her ability to be timeless and current by updating St. Paul native Dave Frishberg’s outdated “I’m Hip” to include a reference to Harvey Weinstein. And on and on.
Nearly every number was a highlight, with excellent, expressive solos by pianist Adam Birnbaum.
Stand outs included “He’s Gone Again,” in which Salvant vacillates and then delivers the closing line of strength with a soft and vulnerable voice; Ida Cox’s rollicking “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues”; the old blues that Bessie Smith sang “You Ought To be Ashamed,” offered a cappella like a field holler; and “Isn’t It Romantic,” which includes a line that describes Salvant’s singing: “every note is like a lover’s kiss.”
By the way, in Salvant’s second set, she did not repeat one selection from her first performance.