I am a pathological optimist, which is probably why I do most things early. Last January, snowed-in and seduced by the torrid promise of August, I bought two-day passes for T. and me for what turned out to be this past week-end’s sodden, muddy, and downright frigid Newport Jazz Festival.
Because I’m also a planner, I started reading weather forecasts earlier in the week which promised partly cloudy skies and temps in the mid 70s, perfect I thought, for enjoying great live music in one of New England’s most scenic and posh landscapes. I looked away from the forecast for what seemed just long enough to turn this into a family weekend, purchasing discounted student tickets for our reluctant teenaged boys and two nights boarding for our recalcitrant dog, only to find myself opting for wellies over Fitflops for Saturday’s footwear du jour, as the rain poured on. Of course, I didn’t put the Fitflops too far from reach just in case August was waiting, late and apologetic, at the end of our three-hour drive.
Well, it wasn’t, but the music was and we were in for the proverbial pound at that point. As I told the boys, this would just have to be Woodstock with hipsters in lieu of hippies, more clothes, and fewer (I hoped and assumed) drugs.
Now back to January. Right before I bought those tickets, I remember trolling Facebook on my iPad, happening upon Grammy Nominations, and seeing the name Cecile McLorin Salvant nominated in the Best Jazz Vocal album category. Her face (sporting the trademark white glasses) and music were familiar to me because I had watched a couple of her very impressive performances on YouTube a year or so prior, after she was featured on Essence.com. While I love jazz, jazz vocalists in particular, I had been much more fascinated by her name. A name like Cecile Salvant begged for what I like to call the “Haitian investigation”, which if successful, would mean we could claim her and add one more notch to the collective belt of the Haitian Massive. We Haitians, on a constant, unspoken mission to celebrate the merits of our tiny and maligned island, never miss a chance to claim one of ours if she’s doing great things. It turns out, she’s half Haitian, which in my head at least, made my personal presence in support of her debut at Newport Jazzfest that much more crucial. For whatever reason, it stopped raining on Saturday afternoon just long enough for us to see that one show, and Cecile dazzled the audience with her quiet grace, wonderful voice and gifted improvisational style. The critics love her, and are comparing her to Sarah Vaughan and other legends. More importantly, my boys liked her, and didn’t seem to mind standing in the rain and mud, listening to very old songs sung by a very talented–and fully clothed–young woman. I think this bodes well for her, for youth, for jazz, and for our trip here next year.