Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"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... 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." -All About Jazz
"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." -AllAboutJazz
Classical music aficionados and jazz devotees can both share in the rich mélange of music offered on Chamber Music Society. The award-winning bassist/composer/vocalist is assisted by several well-known jazz musicians including drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, pianist Leo Genovese, guitarist Ricardo Vogt and percussionist Quintino Cinnalli.
Classical music connoisseurs will recognize the work of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin, and cellist David Eggar who make up Spalding's string trio ensemble. Together they've created a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity of improvisation with angular string trio arrangements.
"Esperanza Spalding has quickly demonstrated that she's an artist of great beauty, grace and daring. With Chamber Music Society, Spalding takes all the well-earned hype she received from her 2008 major-label debut, Esperanza, and shows she is just that good, and even better. The opening number - "Little Fly," a William Blake poem set to music composed by Spalding - is one of my favorite tracks of the year. It's a lush ballad with a string quartet arrangement by Gil Goldstein and Spalding. She could do an entire set of songs like this and become Norah Jones with a bass, but that's where her daring comes in. Spalding dives headlong into sophisticated, complex jazz vocalizations and arrangements on tunes like "Knowledge Of Good And Evil," "Really Very Small" and "What A Friend." She basks in a very original version of "Wild Is The Wind," giving new life to the tune by adding tango overtones - complete with David Eggar's aching cello solos and Leo Genovese harkening the flavor of Astor Piazzola. She duets lovingly with Milton Nascimento on another fine original, "Apple Blossom Time," and Gretchen Parlato (a terrific young vocalist in her own right) on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Inutil Paisagem." The program closes with "Short And Sweet," a fine ballad where Spalding uses her voice as another instrument in the arrangement, rather than singing lyrics or scatting. Spalding will be featured on the cover of DownBeat's September issue ... with good reason. With Chamber Music Society, she's become one of the most exciting artists on the music scene." -DownBeat
Rolling Stone - "[H]er talent is undeniable. The chamber setting provides a feathery pillow for moody tracks like 'Little Fly'..."
JazzTimes (p.70) - "'Knowledge of Good and Evil' is a scat-singing tour de force, 'Chacarera' a percussive tropical treat..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.108) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The jazz rhythm section plus string trio forms an alluring hybrid, unified by Spalding's capricious imagination and virtuosity."
Paste (magazine) - "Her ability to arrange music and command her accompanists is masterful, her bass-playing virtuosic and her voice can display a pantheon of sounds..."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.83) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[An] ambitious new classical-influenced set...[with an] imaginative fusion of styles."
Uncut (magazine) (p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "A dramatic tango version of 'Wild Is The Wind' and an original piece called 'Apple Blossom' are particularly good."
Personnel: Esperanza Spalding (vocals, acoustic bass); Entcho Todorov (violin); Lois Martin (viola); Dave Eggar (cello); Leo Genovese (melodica, piano); Terri Lyne Carrington (drums); Quintino Cinalli (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Joe Ferla.
Recording information: Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ (11/03/2009); Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA (11/03/2009); Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ (2009-10-08_2009-10-10&2010-); Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA (2009-10-08_2009-10-10&2010-).
Photographer: Sandrine Lee.
As evidenced by her self-titled 2008 debut, Esperanza Spalding is a quadruple threat as composer, bassist, singer, and producer. That album spent an astonishing 70 weeks on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart, and was the best-selling album by a new artist internationally for that calendar year. Given its critical and commercial success, a follow-up can exert so much pressure internally and externally, that an artist loses her/his focus and the end result is less than stellar. Not so with Chamber Music Society. Spalding has assembled an intriguing collection of tunes, is accompanied by stellar backing musicians -- drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, pianist Leonardo Genovese, and percussionist Quintino Cinalli with a pair of string players -- and guests that reveal her exquisite taste in both compositions and arrangements (the latter with intermittent help from Gil Goldstein). The album opens with a Spalding composition to illustrate William Blake's poem "Little Fly"; her vocal is understated yet fully articulate. She is backed only by her bass and a graceful, small, unintrusive string section. "Winter Sun" is a standout with its fingerpopping breaks and a melodic nu-soul vocal that touches on scat with astute syncopation, and features taut, imaginative bass and piano solos. It walks the line between modern jazz and adult contemporary R&B . On Esperanza, she covered Milton Nascimento's "Ponta de Areia." Here, she ups the ante by duetting with the Brazilian artist on her own "Apple Blossom," backed by strings and Richard Vogt's nylon-string guitar. Nascimento's trademark baritone is allowed considerable improvisational freedom that features his otherworldly falsetto. Her reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Inutil Paisagem" almost forgoes samba entirely in favor of a more classically disciplined duet vocal arrangement, as Spalding's voice and bass are accompanied only by Gretchen Parlato's divine vocal. Parlato also appears with wordless singing on "Knowledge of Good and Evil," in a breezy yet complex chart that underscores a deft harmonic interaction with the band. Spalding's arrangement of Dimitri Tiomkin's and Ned Washington's classic "Wild Is the Wind" features David Eggar guesting on cello and Genovese playing melodica, and combines jazz, tango, and classic pop. "What a Friend" combines contemporary and Rhodes-driven soulful electric jazz. Chamber Music Society is a more sophisticated offering than Esperanza. That said, with its musical diversity, stylistic panache, humor, and soul, it's also a more enjoyable listen. ~ Thom Jurek
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