Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents Cécile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner on Sunday, September 26 at 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm at Samueli Theatre.
Jazz vocalist Salvant dazzled Segerstrom Center audiences when she first appeared at the Center in 2014; Fortner has been called one of the top jazz pianists of his generation and is recognized for his virtuosic technique and captivating performances.
Each has won numerous prestigious music awards, and together they won GRAMMYs in 2020 for their collaboration on their album, The Window, which explores and extends the tradition of the piano-vocal duo and its expressive possibilities. Join us as these two incomparable young artists join forces on stage in the Jazz Club.
The world first learned of the incredible vocal artistry of Salvant when she won the prestigious 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. In just under the span of a decade she has evolved from a darling of jazz critics and fans, to a multi-GRAMMY® Award winner, to a prescient and fearless voice in music today.
Her adolescent and teenage years were focused on singing classical music and Broadway. Following her desire to study abroad, she enrolled in college (Aix-en-Provence in the south of France) to study opera and law. Ironically, it was in France that McLorin Salvant began to really discover the deep roots of jazz and American music.
Three years later, McLorin Salvant returned to the US to compete in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. On the urging of her mother she entered the contest, but with little sense of what was awaiting her. The expatriate American jazz singer from France, surprising everyone (herself included), took top honors in the jazz world’s most demanding competition. An illustrious panel of judges—Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Patti Austin and Al Jarreau—noted her impeccable vocal technique, innate musicality, and gifts as an interpreter of popular song. “She brought down the house,” reported the Washington Post. Yet, as music critic Ann Midgett observed, “Her marathon is just beginning.”
Since 2010, McLorin Salvant has soared to the top of the music world, garnering praise and gathering awards. “She has poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality, power, virtuosity, range, insight, intelligence, depth and grace,” announced Wynton Marsalis. “You get a singer like this once in a generation or two.” She has been honored with top spot in DownBeat’s critic’s polls in the categories of “Jazz Album of the Year” and “Top Female Vocalist.” NPR Music has awarded her “Best Jazz Vocal Album of the Year” and “Best Jazz Vocalist.” Her debut album, WomanChild (2013), received a GRAMMY® nomination. And her following releases, For One to Love (2015) and Dreams and Daggers (2017), both won GRAMMY® Awards for “Best Jazz Vocal Album.”
McLorin Salvant is a singer whose unique style demonstrates a keen sense of the history of jazz and American music. Among her peers she is unique in the breadth and depth of her repertoire. She fearlessly performs songs from jazz’s roots in minstrel shows and ragtime, like Bert William’s “Nobody” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Murder Ballad.” She digs deep into blues queens like Bessie Smith and Ida Cox, bringing out the mix of jubilation and sorrow that is at the core of the blues. She sings from both the center and the periphery of the Great American Songbook, unearthing forgotten songs while offering fresh interpretations of well-known standards and enlivening Broadway gems with jazzy accents. Beyond the borders of American music, she also is an expert interpreter of Francophone chansons and cabaret numbers, tracing the influence of jazz across the globe, and retracing her own personal path as a musician from America to France and back again. If that weren’t enough, McLorin Salvant is also a gifted composer whose moving additions to the repertoire reflect her unique perspective on love, life, and womanhood.
Her gifts as an artist are rooted in her intensive study of the history of American Music and her uncanny ability to curate its treasures for her audience. Her albums are explorations of the immense repository of experience and feeling that abound in popular song. She understands the special role of the musician to find and share the emotions and messages in music that speak to our past, present and future. “I am not interested in the idea of relevance,” she explains. “I am interested in the idea of presence. I want to communicate across time, through time, play with time.”
All of McLorin Salvant’s study, training, creativity, intelligence, and artistry come together in her voice. The sound of her voice, to borrow a phrase, “contains multitudes.” It covers the gamut from breathy to bold, deep and husky to high and resonant, limpid to bluesy, with a clarity and richness that is nearly unparalleled. When she first burst onto the jazz scene, many listeners were struck by her ability to recall the sound of Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, or Betty Carter. Yet with each new album, McLorin Salvant’s voice has become more her own, more singular. While conjuring the spirits of the ancestors, her references are controlled, focused, and purposeful. Her remarkable vocal technique never overshadows her rich interpretations of songs both familiar and obscure.
For the past decade, Sullivan Fortner has been stretching deep-rooted talents as a pianist, composer, band leader and uncompromising individualist. The GRAMMY Award-winning artist received international praise as both key player and producer for his collaborative work on “The Window” (Mack Avenue, 2018), alongside multi-GRAMMY winner, vocalist-composer Cecile McLorin Salvant. As a solo leader, he has released “Moments Preserved” (Decca, 2018) and “Aria” (Impulse!, 2015) to critical acclaim, and he’s only getting started. This past year, Fortner earned recognition in multiple DownBeat Critics Poll categories, winning first place in Rising Star Piano and Rising Star Jazz Artist.
In addition to associations with such diverse voices as Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Diane Reeves, Etienne Charles and John Scofield, Fortner’s frequent and longtime collaborators have included Ambrose Akinmusire, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stefon Harris, Kassa Overall, Tivon Pennicott, Peter Bernstein, Nicholas Payton, Billy Hart, Gary Bartz, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Fred Hersch and the recently departed Roy Hargrove. The highly-sought improviser has performed across the country and throughout the world at such cultural institutions as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz Standard, Smalls Jazz Club, Snug Harbor and Sweet Lorraine’s, as well as celebrated festivals including at Newport, Monterey, Discover, Tri-C and Gillmore Keyboard, among others. In 2019, he brought his band to the historic Village Vanguard for a week-long engagement as a leader. Fortner’s notable studio contributions include work on Etienne Charles’s “Kaiso” (Culture Shock, 2011), Donald Harrison’s “Quantum Leap” (FOMP, 2010), and Theo Croker’s “The Fundamentals “(Left Sided Music, 2006).
Playing solo or leading an orchestra, Fortner engages harmony and rhythmic ideas through curiosity and clarity. Within phrases, he finds universes, and listeners often hear how he’s moved by each note he explores. Coming up in New Orleans, Fortner began playing piano at age 7, following a storied lineage of improvisers, masters of time and every iteration of the blues. He earned his Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory and Master of Music in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music (MSM). A champion of mentorship, Fortner has offered masterclasses at MSM, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Purdue University, Lafayette Summer Music Workshop, Belmont University and Oberlin Conservatory, where he held a faculty position.
Pulling distinct elements from different eras, Fortner’s artistry preserves the tradition and evolves the sound. He seeks connections among different musical styles that are at once deeply soulful and wildly inventive. Both his works and his insights have been featured in culturally iconic publications, from The New York Times to The Root. Accolades include 2015 winner of the Cole Porter Fellowship by the American Pianists Association, Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, and the 2016 Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists.
Single tickets for Cécile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner at Segerstrom Center for the Arts start at $29 and are now available online at SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787. For inquiries about group ticket discounts for 10 or more, call the Group Services office at (714) 755-0236.
Audience Advisory: Our updated COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “Fully vaccinated” means your performance is at least 14 days after your final vaccine dose. To enter the theatre, please bring proof of vaccination, either your physical vaccination card, a picture of your vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record. Most California residents may request a digital vaccination record at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov
Those who are under age 12 and anyone without proof of being fully vaccinated must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours (3 days) prior to entering the theatre.
Masks are required at all times for all patrons and visitors regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces at Segerstrom Center.
Performance ticket holders who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted.