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Music for the Intellect
on September 25, 2010
Esperanza Spaulding shot off like a rocket with her eponymous debut album in 2008. Yet, for as impressive a young jazz artist as she is, the program there seemed a bit unfocussed. Where was she going to take her unique and most promising talent?
I surmised from the first album that she would probably end up in a "post bop-fusion" mode, exploring and taking off from the early '70's works of such artists as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Miles Davis. The live concert of Ms. Spaulding on PBS' "Austin City Limits" seemed to confirm this direction.
But like Miles Davis, Esperanza Spaulding is much too creative and headstrong a musician ever to be pigeonholed; rather, she appears to be one to lead rather than to follow. And this perception is confirmed by this stunning second c.d.
I have listened to it over and over, and not only am I not tired of it, I find myself picking up something new with each listen. Immediately, I'm captivated by the charming duet with another young vocal lioness, Gretchen Parlato, on track 10, Jobim's "Intuil Paisagem." (Incidentally, one of the few non-originals. Really, the only standard is "Wild Is the Wind," track 5, but even it doesn't sound like what you may be used to at all). Likewise, the duet with the immortal Milton Nasciemento, "Apple Blossom," track 6, is captivating.
But the ouerve of this disc is chamber music, really, and the recording belongs more than anything to the combo of Ms. Spaulding's bass, David Eggar's cello, Entho Todorov's violin and Lois Martin's viola. Jazz and string quartets? It absolutely works here. Kudos to executive producer, Gil Goldstein, one of the best in the business, as well of course to co-producer Esperanza.
And Leo Genovese likewise does amazing work on piano. Check out his solo on track 9, "Winter Sun," for example.
I predict a Grammy nomination for this c.d. Granted, the Grammies in jazz (aka the "Shammies") are generally reserved for talent who has made it. But Esperanza Spaulding has already received an hellacious amount of recognition for such a young artist. She richly deserves it, and would deserve the nomination.
I call this "Music for the Intellect," or "Music for the Head." It won't make it on American Bandstand; you won't give it a 95, because you can't really dance to it. But this disc is one of the most intelligent, intellectually challenging recordings I have heard in a long time. Very highly recommended. RC
p.s. - 1/2/11 - This was the only vocal jazz disc of 2010 to make it into Jazz Times' top 40 c.d.'s. (#34) I would have predicted that, in terms of it being #1. Esperanza Spaulding was also nominated as the top new artist. However, the c.d. was not nominated for a Grammy in the vocal jazz category. Can't get 'em all correct....RC