Except for hip hop or the occasional R&B-inflected jazz, I don’t really listen to much music with vocals. Last year, though, I started listening to the jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. Her latest album is Mélusine (2023) but I remain mired in and moved by Ghost Song (2022). I don’t just love her voice, its tone and timbre, I also love her intelligent lyricism, her confident pastiches of different musical eras, her jarring dissections of power in intimate relations, her masterful takes on great artists from Gregory Porter to Kate Bush. Too, she happens to be an American rarity (except, apparently, in jazz): a francophone singer with an understanding of French literary and musical traditions. (Note, for example, Mélusine is a figure from medieval French literature.) What is not to love about this startlingly talented musician? Truly, I have been missing out. Voice never sounded better.
Bertrand Bickersteth is the author of The Response of Weeds. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Geist, The Walrus, and Grain. He is currently working on a collection of poems on Black cowboys. He lives in Moh’kins’tsis (Calgary) and teaches at Olds College, both in Treaty 7 Territory