I have lived in Washington DC for about a year and am perpetually guilty of comparing everything to my former home, the beautiful, the incomparable, New York City. This uncontrollable urge to compare, not only instantly makes me a tad sad and nostalgic but invokes immediate eyerolls from my DC buds.
With this in mind, walking into the beautiful and historic synagogue on 6th and I behind a group of older Jewish women with the distinct hint of a New York accent made me feel at home. Ahhhh the slight remnants of Brooklyn. I was hooked. A synogogue was an interesting place to host a performance by jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, but any venue apprehensions were quickly assuaged by the awe-inspiring architecture and artwork inside.
The piano was late. I suppose inanimate objects could also be affected by the inclement weather caused by Hurricane Joaquin. When it finally arrived, Salvant emerged onto the stage in a dramatic pink and orange structured top and opened with the classic standard ‘On the Street Where You Live.’ For newbies like me, Salvant’s talent was apparent after the first note. Strong and versatile, her ability to belt one minute and Eartha Kitt purr the next showcased her incredible range.
Salvant’s eye contact through her white, thick-framed glasses is quite unique and allows everyone to feel like you’re hosting a cocktail party and your fabulous new friend decided to surprise you with her amazing singing voice and start a sing-a-long in the living room.
Similarly, Salvant’s band has very much of a jam band feel in the best sense of the term. They have a great ability to improvise and adapt and their chemistry makes the audience feel like they have the privilege of peeking in on something secret.
In true jam band form, when pianist Aaron Diehl left the music for their next song in his bag, Salvant quickly switched gears and started singing a beautifully stripped down rendition of ‘I Wish I could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate’. That’s the beauty of Salvant, the musical journey is unexpected and unpredictable, but wherever you end up you can be assured that it will be good.
The five minute improv segment by drummer Lawrence Leathers. It went everywhere and seemed to incorporate every genre, most notably West African drumming…and his elbows…
Drunk girls don’t know how to act. It’s a place of worship for God’s sake…
I just discovered the Sixth and I synangogue, which means I missed out on tickets to see Ta-Nehisi Coates later this month.
By: Daniella Henry