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Cécile McLorin Salvant is haunted by lost love in a video for "Ghost Song," the title track from her next album

Cecile McLorin Salvant
Nonesuch
Cecile McLorin Salvant in the video for "Ghost Song," the first single and title track of her forthcoming Nonesuch album.

Cécile McLorin Salvant has been seeing ghosts. Not the phantasmagorical, haunted-house kind, and not the noble specters of jazz-historical legend. What seems to haunt Salvant is the fading memory of a love affair, and the apparitional presence it still embodies.

That, at least, is the message of "Ghost Song," a tantalizing first single from her forthcoming Nonesuch Records debut. Released today on digital platforms, the tune has arrived with a music video — featuring a noticeably different backing and delivery than on the official album version.

Cécile McLorin Salvant - Ghost Song (Official Video)

"I tried to keep our love going strong," Salvant sings softly at the outset, before raising her eyes to meet our gaze. "But no matter how hard I tried, something went wrong." Then she signals a tempo, and her ensemble — with Sullivan Fortner on Fender Rhodes piano, Marvin Sewell on guitar and Keita Ogawa on drums and percussion — lumbers into a slow-simmering groove.

The same musicians can be heard on the album version, with a brighter tempo and the notable addition of Burniss Travis on electric bass. But there's also a more bladelike, declarative quality to Salvant's vocals on the album, especially during her a cappella introduction, when she seems to be summoning a field holler. In the video, by contrast, her delivery feels pensive and vulnerable, as if she's enclosed in a confessional.

Similarly, Salvant's air of steely composure on the album version brings a different dimension to a couplet like "My pride is my only company / My pride will get the best of me." When she sings those words in the video, her quietude feels more remorseful, more inclined to implicate her own part in the unraveling.

Cecile McLorin Salvant Ghost Song

These differences are worth noting but not tripping over, because the core of "Ghost Song" remains the same. After a verse whose sinuous melody implies a loopy polyrhythm — Salvant's phrasing inhabits a three-beat cycle, while the band holds down four — we reach the chorus. "I'll dance with the ghost of our love," Salvant sings, with mournful calm. "I will dance with the ghost of our long, lost love."

She's joined in this refrain by Fortner and Alexa Tarantino, neither of whom is primarily known as a vocalist, and later the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. (In the video, the choir takes over just after the three-minute mark, as Salvant's hand-drawn, Matisse-like animations coalesce to form the song title.)

"Ghost Song" is the title track of Salvant's next album, which Nonesuch will release on March 4, and which signals yet another bold move from an artist who has made such moves her stock in trade. As the scholar Daphne Brooks puts it in her essential new book Liner Notes For the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound, Salvant "curates a world of sonic possibility where histories of the dispossessed, that which has been scored by the forgotten as well as the nameless genuises and innovators who maintain their right to elude us, burst forth in thrilling new arrangements of her own design."

Speaking of "Ghost Song" in a press statement, Salvant reflects: "What if the love has gone, the love has left you and you have the emotions around that, and you’re still going through them, still engaging with the ghost of that love?" She goes on, "Some songs are so painful to come out but this one came out pretty quickly. I've had some loss the last couple of years: my grandmother, the drummer in my band."

Ghost Song, the album, comes bookended by unaccompanied vocal pieces in the style of a traditional Irish sean-nós. The first of these segues into an inspired choice of cover song: Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights," which in turn is a "cover" of the Emily Brontë novel. (The final track is a sean-nós bearing the meaningful title "Unquiet Grave.")

All told, Ghost Song introduces seven new Salvant originals and five imaginative takes on existing material — not just by Kate Bush but also Sting ("Until," a waltz from the 2001 film Kate & Leopold) and Brecht-Weill ("The World is Mean"). And more than any previous Salvant album, it all adheres to a larger design.

"The bands also mirror each other from top to bottom. In terms of the instrumentation, everything," Salvant says in the press statement. "That's why the songs are there in that relationship: they match each other, they're like fraternal twins, or one is the evil twin of the other. I, as the living, am visited by the ghost, and then I go visit the ghost in turn. I am haunting the ghost and annoying the ghost, which is saying, 'Get out of here and go live.'"

Ghost Song will be released on Nonesuch on March 4; preorder here.

Cécile McLorin Salvant will perform at SFJAZZ from Feb. 10 through 15, and at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 13 and 14.