Cecile McLorin Salvant, an acclaimed vocalist and composer, scored a 2020 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for innovative music that transcends cultures and genres.
When Cecile McLorin Salvant hits a stage, she reclaims and stands firmly in the rich tradition of Black women storytellers and activists like Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. She is a student of history, using her classical training and almost four-octave range to reimagine jazz standards and deep cuts nearly forgotten by time. "I don't care whether what I do is modern or of our time," she told the New Yorker. "I want to sing songs that have this timeless quality." Born in Miami to a Haitian father and French mother, Salvant grew up immersed in a melting pot of musical and cultural influences. She began piano at 5, singing at 8, and discovered a love for jazz singing while studying classical voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence, France. At 21, she released her self-titled first album and won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for vocalists. Her next four albums were Grammy-nominated, with "For One To Love" (2015), "Dreams and Daggers" (2017), and "The Window" (2018) each winning for Best Jazz Vocal Album. The vocal virtuoso made the 2019 Forbes' 30 Under 30 list for music. Last year, she received the Doris Duke Artist Award and was the only musician in the 2020 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Salvant is currently working on an animated feature film based on "Ogresse" (2018), her unrecorded theatrical piece, which blends baroque, folk, jazz and country into an odyssey backed by an orchestra.