Esperanza Spalding is a marketer’s dream with built-in crossover appeal – her stylish ads for Banana Republic catch the eye, appearances on David Letterman’s show and Jimmy Kimmel Live raise her street cred, and features in Glamour and Teen Vogue create a buzz. In 2010, Oprah’s magazine listed her as a “Woman On The Rise” and proof of her exacting work ethic, artistic ambition and confidence can be found in her candid, high profile piece in the March 15th edition of The New Yorker. And she’s played at the White House, twice. Regardless, Spalding is a seriously good bassist, vocalist and composer, and she artfully balances these prodigious gifts on her sophomore recording, “Chamber Music Society” (Heads Up). Spalding and producer Gil Goldstein maintain a classical theme, employing strings to complement most tunes. Her voice lithe and certain on the lead off tune, “Little Fly,” Spalding sets her original music to William Blake’s poem and like a siren song, you’re helplessly in thrall of the words and her music. Latin percussion seamlessly merges with strings, especially when Spalding takes a bow to her bass on “Chacarera.” She sings with dramatic flair on “Wild Is The Wind,” underscored by pianist Leo Genovese’s melodica, which repurposes the tune as a sultry tango. Another highlight is “What A Friend,” a tune that sounds like something Wayne Shorter could have recorded and it benefits from Spalding’s sunny vocalese and keyboard accents. Her lovely voice duet with the intriguing Gretchen Parlato on a resplendent version of Antonio Jobim’s “Inútil Paisagem,” only confirms the hype surrounding Spalding.
The album’s vibe reflects her multi-cultural POV as much as the idea that jazz can be organically comprised of classical motifs, R&B, wordless melodies, folk and world rhythms. To that end, drummer Terri Lynne Carrington and percussionist Quintino Cinalli complete the quartet that brings Spalding’s vivid music to life. (11 tracks; 56:22 minutes) www.esperanzaspalding.com
Labels: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Esperanza Spalding, Gil Goldstein, Gretchen Parlato, Heads Up