Contemporary Jazz

Esperanza's Big Year

24 DEC 10 CHRIS SLAWECKI

Esperanza Spalding closed 2010 with a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, potential both heralded and realized on Chamber Music Society (Heads Up) released earlier this year and currently available as part of Concord's holiday gift promotion. Classical music played a large part in Spalding's formative years, a debt she repays and codifies in a program that she's called "my version of contemporary chamber music."

Chamber Music Society proves that the youthful Spalding is simply fearless. She wrote most of the songs (music and lyrics), played acoustic bass, sang in a heavenly voice and co-produced the entire set with astounding musical vision. "Little Fly" adapts a poem by heavyweight William Blake to her vocal, acoustic bass and backing strings. "Winter Sun" shifts into a bright and warm jazz trio with rhythm stalwart Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) and pianist Leo Genovese.

Spalding harmonizes with Brazilian legend Milton Nascimento to stroll hand-in-hand through a beautifully ripe "Apple Blossom" orchard.  Her vocal soars like a songbird over the shifting templates of rhythms and strings that ground "Knowledge Of Good & Evil" in mysterious shadow and closes the undertows and crescendos of "Wild Is The Wind" in high notes that defy both gravity and description.

But, the crowning achievement of Chamber Music Society is Spalding's arrangement and performance of "Inútil Paisagem" -- most famously recorded as "If You Never Come To Me" on the landmark Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim sessions (available as Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings) -- as a multi-tracked vocal piece accompanied only by her bass.