Header Quote

"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
— Louis Armstrong

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


By now, plenty of foax know about the phenom bass player and singer Esperanza Spalding.  She is a favorite of President Obama (she played at his Nobel ceremony and at the White House) and Oprah.  By jazz standards, she is BIG.  Her last eponymous disc landed her on the late night talk shows, where her soulful singing and funky grooves wowed people.  But her straight-ahead jazz credibility is also for real—she has played, for example, with Joe Lovano.

Her new recording is called Chamber Music Society, reviewed by me today at PopMatters.  It features a string trio and a second voice (Gretchen Parlato) in addition to a jazz trio (including, notably, Teri Lynn Carrington on drums).  While fans of the last record may worry that "chamber music" and the addition of a string trio means that Spalding has wrecked the pop appeal of her music this time out with classical pretension, that is not the case.

Chamber Music Society contains plenty of snapping backbeat and sinuous melody, and the string arrangements are integrated into the music so that this does not feel like Spalding just grafted some High Cul-chuh onto her regular music.  It is an extension of her sound, an expansion of her sound, not something altogether different.

On a personal note, last year the high school jazz band that I co-lead chose two Spalding songs for performance, "I Know You Know" and "Precious".  The students—both the singers and the musicians—loved them and loved playing them.  In their connection to today's rhythms and in their pure pop appeal, they linked up with 16 year-olds, but in their harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, they challenged our most talented students.

That is a great place for jazz to be in 2010, and Esperanza Spalding takes the music there.

No comments:

Post a Comment