The U.S. debut album from jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, 2013's WomanChild is a bewitching, exuberant introduction to this immensely talented young singer. The winner of the 2010 Thelonious Monk jazz vocal competition, Salvant has the technical ability, lyrical sense, and undeniable charisma to sustain a career that could undoubtedly match those of her idols -- who include Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. And while the distinctive influence of all three of these singers is evident here, with WomanChild Salvant reveals herself to be a genuinely original vocalist with a distinctive timbre, a singer steeped in tradition but with a style and phrasing all her own. And it's not just older artists whom she brings to mind; her reworking of "There's a Lull in My Life" evokes the sultry R&B influence of Sade. All of this merely speaks to Salvant's broad musical appeal and ability to integrate influences into her own sound. And it doesn't hurt that she's backed here by an all-star rhythm section of Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra regulars, including pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Rodney Whitaker, guitarist James Chirillo, and drummer Herlin Riley. Primarily here, Salvant delves into a superb selection of lesser-known standards and original compositions, putting her stamp on such songs as "Nobody," "You Bring Out the Savage in Me," and "Jitterbug Waltz." Salvant even taps into her French heritage on her original composition "Le Front Caché sur Tes Genoux," which features lyrics culled from Ida Faubert's poem "Rondel." However, it is the title track, also an original song, that showcases Salvant the best. A bluesy, roiling torch song, "WomanChild" is Salvant's declaration of womanly independence in the face of self-doubt. She sings, "WomanChild falters/Clumsy on her feet/Wonderin' where she'll go/When her time has come/Good she'll never know/Until she comes undone." With WomanChild, Salvant's time has definitely come and despite whatever fears she may have, it's clear she has the talent to go very far indeed.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar