Monday, February 14, 2011

Esperanza Spalding: Well Deserved

Esperanza Spalding (bass; vocals; b. 1984)
Chamber Music Society (Concord Music)

So Esperanza Spalding won a Grammy last night while I was watching the BAFTA's. This was a shock and actually well deserved. If you don't own this record now--you better by the end of the week. I decided to go back and take a look at what we said about Chamber Music Society last year.

I was trying to avoid this record but I finally gave in and decided what the hell, let's listen and see how it goes. Well for someone who really hasn't heard her previous two albums, I can say that Esperanza Spalding is definitely the real deal and does bring something different and unique to the table.

The Portland, Oregon native was classically trained which is very much on display throughout her newest release, Chamber Music Society (Concord). Spalding's has a terrific voice and her lyrically poetry especially on the opener "Little Fly" is spiritually moving and rich harmony. There are moments where her vocals remind me of nu-soul singers, Monday Michiru and Angela Johnson. Chamber Music Society is an extraordinary mixture of classical, soul, jazz and Latin themes that are expressed with ease and comfort of a talent that has been at it for years. But Esperanza is only 23 years old. Esperanza's complex rhythms, vocal delivery and mastery of the bass make Chamber Music Society a real adventure as you wait to see what's going to come next.

The freshness of record is also highlighted by the manner in which Esperanza allows her band to expand and take center stage throughout. This to me, is the sign of a great upcoming musician and leader. The work of pianist, Leo Genovese, David Eggar on cello and veteran drummer, Terri Lynn Carrington bring and exquisite shine to the proceedings (mainly "Chacarera" and "Really Very Small"). Esperanza delivers two wonderful interpretations that demonstrate her arresting vocal talents on "Wild Is The Wind" and "Inutil Paisagem" that took me by surprise but on second spin I was hooked. Spalding also recruits the Brasilian legend, Milton Nasimento on the self penned "Apple Blossom" which turns out to be a fabulous meeting of generations.

I have to say since I didn't know much about the previous two albums, Chamber Music Society took a few listens to grow on me. Now after listening, Chamber Music Society is ambitious, exciting, refreshing and easily accessible. It's not going to change the face of jazz but it is one more interesting contemporary jazz records so far this year. Well worth your listening time.

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