Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (2010)
Concert/Festival Reviewer since 2005Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer and an ESL teacher.
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On the opening track of her much-lauded, self-titled major label debut, Esperanza (Heads Up, 2008 ), bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding covered Milton Nascimento's timeless gem, "Ponta de Areia." Rather than covering another of the singer/composer's tunes on Chamber Music Society, Spalding recruits Nascimento to perform on her own "Apple Blossoms." It's but one example of a highly intriguing set that blends her classical training with jazz, pop and soul tendencies.
This might seem to be a risky endeavor, but not for Spalding, who not only keeps an open mind, but a radar-like ear that is able to absorb many sonic influences and still make them her own.
Evidence of this is "Winter Sun," another original composition that has elements of soul and jazz without too many complications. Here, she is supported solely by her trio and some multilayered backing vocals, before taking an unexpected bass solo that comes just as the tune might have headed in a pop direction. Her cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim/Aloysio de Oliveira's "Inutil Paisagem" (known in English as "If You Never Come To Me") goes far away from the beaches of Rio; instead, there is a classically-inspired duet between Spalding and vocalist Gretchen Parlato, who perform in both English and Portuguese, backed solely by the bandleader's bass.
The inclusion of strings is a plus here, enhancing the musicality of tracks including "Knowledge of Good and Evil," an up-tempo original with wordless vocals that showcases Spalding's vocal dexterity; the opening "Little Fly"; and "Apple Blossoms," where they flow around Nascimento's improvisations without interference. Also worth a few more spins are "Wild Is The Wind" and the closing "Short and Sweet," both demonstrating that Spalding will certainly be the inspiration for many music students, scholars and fans for years to come.
Track Listing: Little Fly; Knowledge Of Good And Evil; Really Very Small; Chacarera; Wild Is The Wind; Apple Blossom; As A Sprout;What A Friend; Winter Sun; Inútil Paisagem; Short And Sweet.
Personnel: Esperanza Spalding: vocals and bass; Terri Lynne Carrington: drums; Leo Genovese: drums; Milton Nascimento: vocals (6); Gretchen Parlato: vocals (2, 10); Quintino Cinalli: percussion; Ricardo Vogt: guitar; Entcho Todorov: violin; Lois Martin: viola; David Eggar: cello.