Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Armed with uncanny instrumental chops, a siren voice that spans 3 languages, and composing and arranging skills that weave together the best elements of the old-school with the progressive, this 23 year old has crafted an album that takes a completely fresh and refreshing approach to jazz by incorporating the rich traditions of soul, pop, world music and more. This bright young star and childhood prodigy landed gigs with Patti Austin, Joe Lovano and Pat Metheny before leaving school!
"Esperanza Spalding has a number of surprising combinations up her sleeves. First, her doubling on acoustic bass and vocals is an unusual mixture in the jazz world. Her songs also reflect an interesting combination of world music and jazz traditions... She has a beguiling singing style, more pop than jazz, but with enough substance to satisfy the more reasonable members of the jazz "authenticity" police. A gracious release by a promising talent." -Ted Gioia (Jazz.com)
"From a guest appearance on Stanley Clarke's The Toys of Men(Heads Up, 2007) to her self-titled debut, Esperanza Spalding is turning heads, and opening lots of ears. After an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, the host called the 23-year-old vocalist/bassist/composer "the coolest guest" he'd ever had.
Spalding is indeed cool, having enrolled at Berklee College of Music at 16, and ultimately becoming the institution's youngest professor in its history. She landed gigs with Patti Austin, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny and others. Spalding's resume also includes work with Michel Camillo, Dave Samuels and, of course, Clarke.
Her flute-like voice sets the mood early on "Ponta De Areia," the Brant Fernando Rocha/Milton Nascimento composition was made famous by Wayne Shorter and covered by Earth, Wind & Fire. Sung in Brazilian Portuguese, the selection is as beautiful as ever. Leo Genovese contributes a charming piano solo, backed by Spalding's bass, with Jamey Haddad on percussion and Otis Brown on drums.
The title of "I Adore You," isn't a slow-moving ballad, but rather a highly percussive song. With additional vocalists, Horacio Hernandez on drums and Haddad on percussion, Spalding leads a chorus of scat. The bass helps underscore the piano solo. Hernandez punctuates with cymbals, snare and toms at precisely the right moments. Spalding leads on scat/bass duet, showing both her vocal range and crispness with consonants, which sometimes get lost when the vocalist is too fast.
"She Got to You" showcases not only Spalding's vocal and instrumental talents, but also her aptitude as a songwriter. With Donald Harrison complementing on alto saxophone, Spalding sings of a lover who's been swept away by another. The song shifts gears several times as Spalding goes from rapid-fire lyrics to something more subtle. She scats in a way reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, and easily shifts back and forth between scat and lyrics.
Spalding wrote nine of the twelve songs on Esperanza. The others are fresh interpretations of some classics, including a Spanish-lyrics version of the American jazz standard "Body and Soul," here titled "Cuerpo y Alma." Accompanied by a flexible lineup of session players, Spalding displays sass, warmth, soul and charm." -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.69) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Spalding sings like a cross between Minnie Riperton and Flora Purim, writes in a style recalling Milton Nascimento, and seems indebted to the rich melodies of Stevie Wonder. Her sons sing when she lets the rhythms fly high..."
JazzTimes (p.111) - "Spalding's voice slips through each of her intricately crafted arrangements as if imbued with the spirit of Flora Purim."
Vibe (p.62) - "Spalding has fashioned something cohesive and diverse, calling upon a strong coalition of musicians and the depths of her own skill."
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