350

Esperanza Spalding: Junjo

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Esperanza Spalding: Junjo The debut recording by this 22-year-old Berklee instructor and Portland, Oregon native features Brazilian-inflected jazz in the company of Cuban bandmates, released by a Spanish record label. Put that way, Junjo sounds terribly worldly and logistically complicated, but in fact the record comes across as an intimate affair executed with a light touch.

The Brazilian accent is most discernible when Spalding accompanies her bass playing with wordless singing (except on "Cantoro de Yala," which she sings, diffidently, in Spanish). This vein is well-known to jazz listeners: the music sometimes recalls Flora Purim's singing on Chick Corea's records, other times the up-tempo, melodically complex terrain covered by Maria Schneider on Concert in the Garden (Artist Share, 2005). The circular melody on "Mompouana" is an especially nice example, with a catchiness that would suit lots of radio airplay. Regrettably, jazz hits aren't so common anymore.

Spalding's bass playing has the same disingenuous and ingratiating charm as her singing, with more easy virtuosity as well. And indeed, that combination of characteristics imbues the entire date, right down to the selection of material (some good originals; a nicely bass-driven version of "The Peacocks").

The trio's playing has a slightly impromptu, rough and ready quality: this does not prevent splendid flashes of precision from pianist Aruan Ortiz, who is excellent throughout. Drummer Francisco Mela is slightly less subtle, sometimes knocking about a bit, but he's generally well-suited to the vaguely (or explicitly) Latin rhythms.

Junjo is not perfect: plenty of passages and some entire numbers don't exactly gel. But the whole project is so thoroughly infused with freshness that it almost doesn't matter. Spalding's first outing manages to be brash but not arrogant, eccentric but not abstruse, appealing but neither facile nor populist. A fine balance.


Track Listing: The Peacocks; Loro; Humpty Dumpty; Mompouana; Perazuan; Junjo; Cantora de Yala; Two Bad; Perazela.

Personnel: Esperanza Spalding: bass, voice; Francisco Mela: drums; Aruan Ortiz: piano.

Title: Junjo | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Ayva Musica


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Unnatural  Events CD/LP/Track Review Unnatural Events
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Clean CD/LP/Track Review Clean
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2017
Read Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations CD/LP/Track Review Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 15, 2017
Read "The Big Wig" CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read "The Picasso Zone" CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Karoujite" CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Aural Vertigo" CD/LP/Track Review Aural Vertigo
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: July 9, 2017
Read "Natural Language" CD/LP/Track Review Natural Language
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 9, 2016
Read "Satin Doll – A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn" CD/LP/Track Review Satin Doll – A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 23, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.