August 2010

201008_esperenzaEsperanza Spalding’s Music Successfully Channels Exciting New Crossover Directions

Heads Up HUI-31910-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance
Sound Quality
Overall Enjoyment

Young Esperanza Spalding is a triple-threat artist. She’s an accomplished acoustic bass player, a virtuoso jazz singer, and an adept songwriter. And on this exciting and appealing CD, she often displays all three of her talents at once. The album’s basic idea was to combine a jazz trio (Spalding, pianist Leo Genovese, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington) with a string trio made up of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin, and cellist David Eggar. The six players are augmented from time to time with another percussionist, as well as guitar and backing vocals. The result is a new direction for jazz that should also please listeners who like classical, folk, or world music.

The music is kaleidoscopic -- essential and alive, lush and lean, sweet and sultry, and simple and complex. Spalding brings new life to “Wild Is the Wind” and “Inútil Paisagem” by going to the heart of each piece, separating the elements and reweaving them in her distinctive and seductive style. Her voice can be simple and sweet (“Little Fly”) or insistent and cutting (“Really Very Small”). It’s an instrument that seems to have no restrictions of range or timbre, and it does exactly what she wants it to do. Though every track exhibits emotion and warmth, there’s always a consummate intellectual guidance system calling the shots. Spalding’s backup musicians sound more like collaborators who complement and expand her verve rather than taking a back seat, and the rich, full, and singularly focused close-up recorded sound makes everything clear to the listener’s ear.

Spalding is not yet 30, and she’s already on a course to become one of the hallowed greats of jazz. Get the CD and hitch a ride.

Be sure to listen to: The introduction to “Winter Sun” is delicately layered for Spalding’s bass, the piano, the string trio, and wordless backing voices. Superb engineering gives full support to make this track a moment of beauty and musical magic.

. . . Rad Bennett