Home Music album Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant – Ghost Song

Album: Cécile McLorin Salvant – Ghost Song


When 2020 MacArthur Fellow and three-time Grammy Award winner Cécile McLorin Salvant previewed some of the material from her forthcoming album to a delighted audience at Cadogan Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival in London. last year, you sensed something special was brewing. But the treasure of wonders that is ghost song exceeds all expectations.

Whether it is the unaccompanied fragment of the sean nos song “Cúirt Bhaile Nua” following Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” (recorded in the beautiful acoustics of St. Malachy’s Church, New York), the imaginative fusion of breathtaking “Optimistic Voices” with “No Love Dying ” by Gregory Porter, or the magnificent self-written “Thunderclouds” (inspired by Marcel Carné’s 1945 film, children of paradise), all seven originals and five covers combine to form a moving, imaginative and sometimes hilarious whole in what is Salvant’s most memorable statement to date. Other highlights include the haunting chorus of the tender and conversational title track, the venerably old folk song, “Unquiet Grave” and “The World Is Mean” from The Threepenny Operaa job clearly loved by Salvant.

“When it comes to instruments, I like an underdog nobody likes,” Salvant noted when I interviewed her for The Arts Desk. Not only does the banjo make a welcome reappearance in ghost song – previously featured on his 2013 album WomanChild – Salvant’s endless quest for textual surprise sees the introduction of the lute and theorbo in “Dead Poplar”, which features lyrics taken from a letter written by Alfred Stieglitz to Georgia O’Keefe set to music by Salvant. The brilliant “I Lost My Mind,” on the other hand, is backed by the pipe organ, which delivers an ending so powerful it threatens to dislodge your light fixtures and a tile or two from your roof. I predict the hurdy-gurdy and the trumpet marine next time.


Listen to the title track: