In Our Time is an ongoing series of wide-ranging conversations with artists whose creative lives and work have left an indelible mark in music, the arts, and culture globally. In Our Time was conceived by the longtime President of Nonesuch Records, Robert Hurwitz whose unique history with each of the artists adds perspective and insight.
Cécile McLorin Salvant is a composer, singer, and visual artist. The late Jessye Norman described Salvant as “a unique voice supported by an intelligence and full-fledged musicality, which light up every note she sings.” Salvant has developed a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between vaudeville, blues, folk traditions from around the world, theater, jazz, and baroque music. She is an eclectic curator, unearthing rarely recorded, forgotten songs with strong narratives, interesting power dynamics, unexpected twists, and humor.
Salvant won the Thelonious Monk competition in 2010 and she has received Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her three latest albums, The Window, Dreams and Daggers, and For One To Love; she awas nominated for the award in 2014 for her album WomanChild.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, of a French mother and Haitian father, Salvant started classical piano studies at five, sang in a children’s choir at eight, and started classical voice lessons as a teenager. She received a bachelor’s in French law from the Université Pierre-Mendes France in Grenoble while also studying baroque music and jazz at the Darius Milhaud Music Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Robert Hurwitz served as President of Nonesuch for thirty-two years, beginning in September 1984. When he took over Nonesuch, it was a classical label and the home of the legendary Explorer series. After he became the head of the label, he redefined its role in contemporary classical music and modern composition, expanded its mission in world music, and began recording and releasing artists from a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, music theater, folk, bluegrass, and rock.
Among the artists he has signed or worked with are composers including John Adams, Laurie Anderson, Timo Andres, Louis Andriessen, Donnacha Dennehy, Henryk Gorecki, Philip Glass, Adam Guettel, Nico Muhly, Astor Piazzolla, Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewki, Stephen Sondheim, and John Zorn as well as performers and songwriters including Björk, Devendra Banhart, David Byrne, Jeremy Denk, Bill Frisell, Gipsy Kings, Richard Goode, Tigran Hamasyan, Kronos Quartet, Gidon Kremer, k.d. lang, Lake Street Dive, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Audra McDonald, Natalie Merchant, Stephin Merritt (and the Magnetic Fields), Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Mandy Patinkin, Punch Brothers, Randy Newman, Joshua Redman, Chris Thile, Dawn Upshaw, Caetano Veloso, and the World Saxophone Quartet.
The Boston Globe said, “Under Robert Hurwitz, Nonesuch Records has been an oasis of artistic excitement. When one picks up a Nonesuch CD, there is a sense of occasion, the feeling that the artists in question have been assembled not as an exercise in star power, but as an exercise in artistic exploration.” And the New York Times Magazine said, “In a business now largely run by accountants and M.B.A.’s, Hurwitz is, in the words of Stephen Sondheim, ‘one of the few left who practice the making of records as a craft.’”
Hurwitz has remained closely involved with Nonesuch’s creative activities as an Executive Producer on a dozen projects a year; he is also the Chairman Emeritus of the company. He has taught at the New School for more than a decade, and has been teaching at UCLA for the past few years as well.