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Cécile McLorin Salvant remains one of the jazz world’s most compelling vocalists, in part because she refuses to be strictly defined by the j-word. With her Nonesuch Records debut, Ghost Song, she once again finds inventive yet soulful ways to stitch together the musical ingredients she’s made of. That list includes, but is not limited to, solid jazz chops, elements of musical theater, vintage jazz/blues/roots inclinations, and a restless musical chef’s approach to creating new stylistic syntheses. The surprising combined flavors harmonize beautifully.On this pandemic era project, Salvant felt no urge to flex her abundant virtuosity, and improvisation is kept to a minimum — mostly supplied via tasteful flourishes from pianist allies Sullivan Fortner and Aaron Diehl. Contextual and textural settings are refreshingly atypical, with flute by Alexa Tarantino, high-end string work by banjoist James Chirillo and percussion by Keita Ogawa. Also refreshing the sonic mix: a children’s choir, on the title cut/thematic hook “Ghost Song”; and Diehl’s pipe organ, on the mesmeric chant of “I Lost My Mind,” which lends an aura of borrowed religiosity. Material-wise, Salvant manages to somehow logically weave together a creative redo of Sting’s “Until,” Kurt Weill’s “The World Is Mean” and a medley of Harold Arlen’s “Optimistic Voices” (now vintage, now abstract) and Gregory Porter’s soulful “No Love Dying.” Her bold compositional voice shines through on “Obligation,” “Dead Poplar” and “Thunderclouds.”A kaleidoscopic yet beautifully balanced concept album of sorts, the 12-track LP-length song set is bookended by hypnotic a cappella tunes — Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” and the original “Unquiet Grave.” In an artful scheme, the first is a long fade-in with cathedral-size reverb, while the finale fades into the same spacious acoustic setting. Listening to the album on repeat reveals a cyclical scheme reminiscent of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, in which the last sentence feeds back into the first, accentuating some cosmic, cultural continuity at work. Salvant’s creative continuum continues apace.— Josef Woodard https://open.spotify.com/album/69TYdq2UOhXr1OpIN9kdwJ?si=bhhe4Ue6TZ-3XOs2NL2c3A