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Esperanza
     

Esperanza

4.7 7
by Esperanza Spalding
 
Triple threat Esperanza Spalding is an accomplished bassist, singer, and composer whose talent belies her youth. Drawing on jazz (she studied at Berklee College of Music) while also displaying genuine comfort with Brazilian music and obvious affection for R&B, Esperanza embraces diverse styles that seamlessly gel under her inclusive vision. Her swinging take on “Body

Overview

Triple threat Esperanza Spalding is an accomplished bassist, singer, and composer whose talent belies her youth. Drawing on jazz (she studied at Berklee College of Music) while also displaying genuine comfort with Brazilian music and obvious affection for R&B, Esperanza embraces diverse styles that seamlessly gel under her inclusive vision. Her swinging take on “Body and Soul” gives the classic tune a contemporary twist by way of post-bop underpinnings and Esperanza’s decision to sing in Portuguese, while her own improvisation demonstrates a virtuosic ability to scat the melodic lines that she simultaneously plays on her bass. If her easy interaction with the fine pianist Leo Genovese and guest saxophonist Donald Harrison (hear them mesh on “If That’s True”) reveals a sophisticated instrumentalist with a substantial career in jazz, the original songs (including “I Know You Know,” “Precious,” and the ballad “Fall In”) prove that Esperanza possesses the common touch as well, her light-toned, flavorful singing bringing all manner of material to vivid life. With the enviable ability to move in any musical direction she pleases, Esperanza is an artist to savor in the here-and-now and to closely monitor in the future.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Bassist, vocalist, and composer Esperanza Spalding's eponymous release on Heads Up International is touted on the Concord Label Group's website as her debut recording. This is patently untrue. In fact, if it weren't for her actual debut , 2006's Junjo on Spain's Ayva imprint, this set may not have existed at all. Junjo showcased Spalding as a leader, playing in an acoustic trio with pianist Aruan Ortiz and drummer Francisco Mela singing wordlessly over bubbling Latin and Afro-Cuban melodies and rhythms. Though written by Brazilian legend Milton Nasciemento and featuring backing vocalists and additional percussion to the bass, piano, and drum format, Esperanza's opening track, "Ponta De Areia" resembles the sound and M.O. of the earlier album quite a bit. This is on purpose, as Spalding simply nods to one of the many places she comes from musically. The track, with its languid, nursery rhyme-like melody and beautifully understated instrumental accompaniment, gently opens the listener to an aural experience that's quite unlike anything else out there. Spalding sings in three languages here -- English, Spanish, and Portuguese -- she plays bass, does the arranging, and acts as her own producer on this wildly diverse and exceptionally well-executed set. How does a 23-year-old get all that control? Simple: she's a prodigy; she is a seasoned session player (she's worked with Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny, and Patti Austin to name just three), and she's a faculty member at the Berklee College of Music. The ambition on display on Esperanza is not blind; it's deeply intuitive, and her focus brings out the adventure on the album in all the right ways. By a lesser musician, even attempting something like this would have been disastrous. A core band consisting of pianist Leo Genovese, percussionist Jamey Haddad, and drummer Otis Brown backs Spalding. She follows the Nasciemento cut with her own fingerpopping midtempo ballad "I Know You Know," where her crystal clear contralto walks a phrasing tightrope between near scat, classic jazz, and Latin soul singing. The layers of hand percussion and knotty pianism fill the middle as her bassline and drums hold down a constant skittering thrum for the lyrics to balance on. But she can write and sing straight ballads as well. "Fall In," a seemingly simple duet where her voice over Genovese's piano are the only ornaments, is a stellar example and also displays a very sophisticated and slippery sense of wordcraft and a gorgeous melodic sensibility. "I Adore You," featuring Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez in one of his two appearances on drums, offers another example of Spalding's wordless vocalizing; it is a popping Brazilian samba-cum-rhumba with a snappy backing chorus of Brown, Gretchen Parlato, and Theresa Perez. They help her move the smoking piano and the shuffling, time-shifting drums of Hernandez on the choruses. Spalding's bass part here is anything but basic, it's startling in its rhythmic and lyric invention as it adds another harmonic counterpart to the piano and percussive textures. New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison performs in one of his two guest spots on the provocative and sassy jazz tune "She Got to You." With a quick, even-burning tempo, there are traces of Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Blossom Dearie in Spalding's phrasing. For all of the hard-driving percussion and the track's boppish tempo, it is wonderfully accessible. "Precious," played with her trio (including some nice Rhodes work by Genovese) is like a mirror image; it's lithe, new-soul melody line flirts with jazz in the arrangement but stays on the pop side of the fence. If radio would get behind this it would be a monster. "Mela" is a wailing, post-bop instrumental with Hernandez on drums and guest Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Check Spalding's bass solo here, it, like the tune, is a burner. In sum, Esperanza sounds like the work of a much older, more experienced player, singer, and songwriter. Spalding not only has these gifts in natural abundance but is disciplined in her execution as well. On this recording she seeks to widen her musical adventure at every turn, but she does it with such with taste, refinement, and a playful sense of humor that virtually anyone who encounters this offering will find not only much to delight in, but plenty to be amazed by as well.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/20/2008
Label:
Heads Up
UPC:
0053361314026
catalogNumber:
3140
Rank:
28506

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Esperanza 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't begin to tell you how much I love this CD. I first heard Esperanza on David Letterman where Paul referred to her as "the coolest guest we've ever had on our show". I thought he was exaggerating until Esperanza performed "Precious". I bought the CD the next day and I've been wearing it out. Her vocals, instrumentals, and lyrics are all outstanding, splendid, brilliant, etc.. Jazz, neo-soul, Brazilian jazz - whatever your jazz taste(s) you have to have this wonderful compliation of songs and instrumentals in your collection! Keep on doin' it Esperanza girl - Love Ya'!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Refreshing! I love this album. They are all beautiful songs. I recommend this to all neo-jazz and afro-Brazilian jazz fans!
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