Chamber Music Society CD
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Bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding - backed by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and pianist Leo Genovese - has created a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is music that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical music.
'Chamber Music Society' features not only Spalding's virtuoso bass playing but also her wonderful vocals, including duets with special guests Milton Nascimento and Gretchen Parlato. With string arrangements by co-producer Gil Goldstein, it showcases this brilliant young musical talent who isn't afraid to challenge the limits of jazz and its relationship to other forms of musical expression.
Esperanza first took the world by storm in 2008 with her self-titled Heads Up debut recording. Since then she has toured the world (with performances in the UK at the Barbican and Ronnie Scott's), performed at the White House, the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival and was invited by President Obama to perform at the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Oslo.
Personnel: Esperanza Spalding (acoustic bass, vocals), Leo Genovese (piano), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), Quintino Cinalli (percussion), Ricardo Vogt (guitar), Milton Nascimento (vocals, track 6), Gretchen Parlato (vocals, track 10), Entcho Todorov (violin), Lois Martin (viola), David Eggar (cello)
For a relative stripling, Esperanza Spalding is already well-schooled in the mysteries of jazz. It's rare for an upright bass player to be an out-front singer, and such an oddity is even less likely to be female. Nevertheless, Spalding effortlessly entertains from a physically disadvantaged position, projecting to the furthest corners of any concert hall.
For her third album, New Jersey resident Spalding has created a more intimate pleasure. Its title hints at the subtleties within: Chamber Music Society finds Spalding's accustomed quartet augmented by a string trio. Her co-producer also happens to be Gil Goldstein, one of the prime arrangers in jazz.
Spalding's original compositions sound like standards already, and her specialised interests are becoming more apparent with each disc. Brazilian music is central, as is a predilection for lyrics that look to nature, symbolising humanity through references to the seasons, as well as flora and fauna. The opening Little Fly sets a William Blake poem, and the following Apple Blossom and Winter Sun continue this thematic sequence, combining fatalism, melancholia and hope.
Knowledge of Good and Evil is the first of the album's strongly Brazilian-steeped tunes, acting largely as a vehicle for Spalding's scatrobatics. Her brightly skipping voice is well-suited to such verbal dynamics – it’s a fragile instrument, but not weak. These unfettered vocal excursions might sometimes range close to risking excess, but they're invariably well-contrasted with the string trio's framing. As if one scatter wasn't sufficient, Spalding is joined on this song by Gretchen Parlato, one of the quirkier new jazz singers on the block.
Spalding introduces vocal overdubs on Really Very Small, prompting some impressive layering. Her keyboardist Leo Genovese contributes Chacarera, revealing that he too is spellbound by Brazil. David Eggar's cello solo features strongly, and the music of Argentina's Ástor Piazzolla also appears in the clunky angularities of the strings. There are endless details in the production, which is rife with string flourishes and percussion minutiae. Spalding doesn't overdo the bass solos, but there's a particularly nimble example during Winter Sun.
Milton Nascimento drops by for a duet on Apple Blossom, with the two singers exchanging roles of high and low-voiced parts. What a Friend is very reminiscent of Airto and Flora Purim's style, once again painting images of Brazil. Then, to crown the whole experience, it's down to Rio for a very minimalist interpretation of Antonio Carlos Jobim's delicately tiptoeing Inútil Paisagem (Useless Landscape).--Martin Longley
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Top Customer Reviews
The opening track "Little Fly" and "Wild Is The Wind" are the two highlights of the album for me. Both are very well crafted, subtle yet incredibly haunting pieces of music with lovely vocals from Esperanza. The other tracks are very attractive too. "Knowledge Of Good And Evil" and "Chacarera" have mesmerising solo musical sections. Milton Nasciemento lends his vocals to "Apple Blossom" which make this track even more intriguing as they somehow blend really well with Esperanza's higher range. The only critisism I have is that a few too many of the tracks see Esperanza using scat rather than lyrics to accompany the music ("What A Friend", "Short And Sweet" and parts of "Inutil Paisagem").
Overall, the music is indeed very inspiring and captivating. The more I listen to this album, the more I enjoy the music, and the more I appreciate Esperanza's talent.
This is to hugely understate her self-evident gifts!
Ms Spalding's formal musical studies shine through in
this, her third, wonderful album ('Jungo', 2006 and
'Esperanza', 2008 also deserve our attention and applause)
but are tempered by an appetite for improvisation and
exploration. Her way with the bass can be both light as a
summer breeze and as robust as a (well-behaved!) rottweiler;
her voice, a flexible, meliflouous and enchanting instrument.
She is joined on the eleven tracks in this collection by
Leo Genovese/piano, Terri Lyne Carrington/drums and a
beautifully integrated string trio. Gil Goldstein produces.
Highlights would have to include the delightfully sinuous
'Knowledge Of Good and Evil', an elegant and whistful
composition which finds Ms Spalding wordlessly warbling
along as though she hasn't a care in the world (Gretchen
Parlato provides additional vocal decorations). It's a
gentle feelgood number which wears its heart on its sleeve.
'Chacarera', too, weaves a tapestry of silvery magic in the air.
The mercurial interplay between voice, piano and cello (played
splendidly by David Eggar) together with the spluttering Latin
rhythm slips and slithers and slides like oil on water.
'Apple Blossom' delivers a lovely duet with Milton Nascimento.
An engaging and curiously affecting tale well-told by both singers.
Final track 'Short and Sweet' is a beautiful elegy whose subtly
crafted and understated thematic material brings the album
to a reflectively down-beat close (Mr Genovese's vigorously
lyrical piano solo deserves an especial mention all its own!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was introduced to Esperanza but our son (Christmas present Radio Music Society) and have subsequently bought this album. Her music really is unique and I want to hear more. Read morePublished on 17 Jan. 2013 by Mr. M. Nethercoat
Great music, every album by Esperanza is different and this one builds on her background as classical music player. highly recommended.Published on 15 Jan. 2013 by Joanna
Got this album as a gift for an uncle after seeing Esperanza perform on Letterman. No complaints from my uncle so far and I have to say, having listened to the album myself,... Read morePublished on 7 Oct. 2011 by Odg
Have been listening to Esperanza Spalding for quite a while now and am so happy that she is finally been recognized within the music world. Read morePublished on 13 May 2011 by lovemurakami