Cécile McLorin Salvant

A look at music on the rise and causing waves around the globe.

Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer – Snåcko

In 2017 Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer traveled together to the Åland Islands (an archipelago that is host to around 6,500 islands) in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. They headed to the islands with the intention of helping two friends (mother/daughter duo Jannika/Sage Reed) barn raise a small inn named Hotel Svala in Kumlinge (a municipality consisting of a small group of islands and a population of about 320). The idea was that, once completed, Svala would host artist residencies and workshop programs, creating a direct link between the islands and the USA.

The concept of recording music there came about as Honer & Chiu learned more and more about the islands. They were taken by the serene and strange quality of the place. The sun doesn’t set in the summer (and barely rises in the winter). The network of miniature islands is traversed by ferry which, according to Chiu, “casts a surreal horizontal movement through space and time, with islands shifting into and out of periphery, totally still and calm, yet always in motion.”

In 2019 they were awarded a grant from the Department of Culture to return and perform a concert at the Kumlinge Kyrka, a 14th century medieval church adorned with incredible frescos. The concert was recorded and became source material – along with improvisations on viola and electronics, pipe organ, pump organ, piano, synthesizers, field recordings and voice memos, all captured across both their trips at various locations on the archipelago – from which they meticulously crafted a post-script in the form of ‘Recordings from the Åland Islands’. – Bandcamp

Cécile McLorin Salvant – Until

Cécile McLorin Salvant, a 2020 MacArthur Fellow and three-time Grammy Award winner, is a singer and composer bringing historical perspective, a renewed sense of drama, and an enlightened musical understanding to both jazz standards and her own original compositions. Classically trained, steeped in jazz, blues, and folk, and drawing from musical theater and vaudeville, Salvant embraces a wide-ranging repertoire that broadens the possibilities for live performance.

Salvant makes her Nonesuch Records debut with the release of Ghost Song. The new album features a diverse mix of seven originals and five interpretations on the themes of ghosts, nostalgia, and yearning. Salvant says, “It’s unlike anything I’ve done before—it’s getting closer to reflecting my personality as an eclectic curator. I’m embracing my weirdness!” The New York Times calls it “her most revealing and rewarding album yet.” Uncut calls her “one of the most daring and resourceful vocalists in jazz—or any other genre, for that matter.” Jazzwise describes the album as “music of sensitivity and intelligence, which underlines Salvant’s growth as an artist of stature who stylistic choices are as daring as they are mature.” – via Nonesuch

Lara Downes: Scott Joplin – The Chrysanthemum

Not long before his death in 1917, Scott Joplin predicted that he would become a fixture of the American musical canon. A colleague later recalled him saying, “When I’m dead 25 years, people are going to begin to recognize me.”

So although Joplin is an established fixture, public appreciation of his accomplishments remains fuzzy, unsteady. On a recent, wintry walk through Harlem, the pianist Lara Downes said that was what inspired her latest album, Reflections: Scott Joplin Reconsidered. One goal, she said, was to “put together a somewhat comprehensive portrait of this musician who is really hard to pin down.”

“The world that he was sending the music out into was pretty prescribed. What he knew at the beginning was that he couldn’t be me. He couldn’t be a Black classical pianist. Done. So then he starts innovating; he’s making a living. He’s just on the road. What’s the music he’s going to play? It’s ragtime. But then he makes it better. He makes it the best. He becomes the king of it! And while he’s being the king of it, he’s all the time planning this whole opera thing. I really want to liberate him from the two categories where people have tried to fit him: “king of ragtime” or “greatest classical composer you’ve never heard of.” I want to be super clear that I see him as an American innovator and cross-pollinator, and that the central truth in his music is that everything exists together and is there for the finding. – Seth Colter Walls, New York Times

Staffan Bråsjö – Butterflux

The Stratosphere is the atmospheric layer ranging from an altitude of 15 km to 50 km, encircled by the Troposphere and Mesosphere. The stratosphere is characterized by temperatures rising by altitude.

Just like its meteorological counterpart, Stratosphere is a musical boundary layer. Music laboriously composed by debuting band-leader Staffan Bråsjö, and arranged as wore it for a group of chamber musicians. Nevertheless, the music is executed by some of Sweden’s most interesting contemporary jazz musicians, who with their unmistakably personal touch bring life to the written score. From a wider perspective, the music draws inspiration from the close to sacred sentiment provoked by the encounter of the natural sciences, best expressed by the reciprocity of the stem pillars of a boreal conifer forest with those of a majestic cathedral. With a closer listen, contrapuntal dialogues from Beethoven’s seventh Symphony perceive, sharing room with voices from a archaic chorale, surrounded by improvisations drenched in the perfume of Parisian fin de siècle. Still there is room for the simplicity and rhythmical impulse that it the hallmark of contemporary Nordic jazz, resulting in a genre-disintegrating listening experience. Stratosphere is visual music from beginning to end. Personal, visual and delicately powerful. – Bandcamp