Cecile McLorin Salvant keeps winning Grammys.
She nabbed her first one, in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, in 2015 for her "For One to Love," and again in 2017 for "Dreams and Daggers." She was nominated in 2014 for "WomanChild," but Gregory Porter inched across the finish line first. Now she's nominated again, for her intimate "The Window," recorded with pianist Sullivan Fortner, and the Grammy winners will be announced Sunday night.
Clearly, Salvant is doing something right.
And now, she's coming to Charleston. Salvant will appear with Fortner at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Turtle Point Clubhouse on Kiawah Island. The gig is presented by Quentin Baxter as part of his Kiawah series.
Baxter, too, is in the running for a Grammy as a supporting player this year, and he's up against Salvant. He played drums on Freddy Cole's nominated "My Mood is You" disc. Cole, the younger brother of Nat King Cole, is 87 years old, an elder statesman of American jazz.
In 2016, both Cole (with Baxter at the drums) and Salvant were part of Spoleto Festival USA's jazz series.
Salvant, 29, is among a new generation of female vocalists making a name for herself. Her expressive, warm tone and wide range, and her interest in a variety of musical genres, has helped her clinch gigs with some top instrumentalists, including Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Diehl, Fred Hersch and young up-and-comers such as Kyle Poole.
She was born and raised in Miami by a French mother and Haitian father, learned piano and starting singing while still very young. In 2007, she moved to France where she enrolled at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory. While abroad, her musical interests expanded to include jazz.
In anticipation of her Kiawah concert, The Post and Courier asked her about her musical life.
Q: You grew up in Miami playing piano and singing, and then studied music in France. What were your early plans for yourself?
A: I didn’t really have early plans for myself! I loved music and wasn’t quite sure how it would fit into my life.
Q: You won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010, which immediately put you on the jazz map. But your musical interests reach far beyond jazz. What ties all your repertoire together?
A: I am interested in songs that have an interesting angle, that deal with identity in surprising ways. I usually choose a song because something about it surprised me. I think that is why I love comedy so much as well, because it only works through subversion of expectations.
Q: Your album “The Window,” made with pianist Sullivan Fortner, has clinched your fourth Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. It’s pretty stripped down musically. Is this a departure for you, or a coming home?
A: To me it isn’t a stripped down record at all. I think sometimes a big band can sound small and an instrument alone can sound huge. Sullivan is able to make the piano an orchestra, he’s also able to make it a single voice. This album is a continuation for me. I am not departing or coming home, just continuing on this path with very little visibility and mostly intuition guiding me.
Q: You’ve performed with some of the finest musicians working today in ensembles both large and small. Given that jazz is a perpetual learning experience, what are a couple of the big lessons you’ve absorbed from your collaborators?
A: I have been extremely lucky to learn different things from the people I work with. Working with each of them has helped me listen to music differently, and pay attention to details that hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve learned the most from them by hearing them play and by listening to music with them and talking about what we hear, what we like, what we dislike, and why.
Q: Your background is Haitian and French. How have your parents influenced you musically?
A: My parents inspired me to be curious, to seek knowledge, to think critically. They introduced me to the world through music, film, food and literature at a very young age. My first experiences engaging with music was dancing to it with my family.
Q: This will be your third appearance in the Charleston area. You performed in Spoleto Festival USA in 2012 and in 2016. Is Charleston beginning to tug on your heart a little? Any interest in exploring the Gullah roots of local music?
A: I am very interested in the Gullah roots of the music! I will ask Quentin to give me an introduction!
Q: What’s next for you? Any big projects planned? (Or small ones?)
A: I’m working on a song cycle, all original material, with a large ensemble. We’ve performed it three times so far. It’s about an ogress.