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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music for the Intellect
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...
Published on September 25, 2010 by Rick Cornell

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
If you like Esperanza Spalding, you'll probably like her latest effort, "Chamber Music Society." In many ways, it builds on the style she's cultivated since her release of "Junjo." While Ms. Spalding is certainly an accomplished musician and excellent singer, I'm not sure she's established a firm sense of who she is as a musician yet. Since "Junjo," and now with...
Published on May 28, 2011 by Ex Lib


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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music for the Intellect, September 25, 2010
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
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
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTICALLY BEAUTIFUL!!!!, September 8, 2010
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
I love all of Esperanza's CDs and what I loved about some of the songs on the previous works were some were so simple and whisical and just wonderful.
What I love about Chamber Music Society is that is anything but simple. Every airspace has music and sound (if that makes sense). Its beautiful and rich and interesting and it envelopes you. The Chamber Music idea was so original! HOW do you add jazz elements to something as boring as chamber music and make it something I cant stop listening to!?!?
Its soooo UNIQUE and INNOVATIVE! And I see her growth in this CD. Its amazing to me.
Because I was introduced to her 3 years ago, I now listen to Jazz music new and old. And work like this is what makes Jazz the best music genre to me. I hope the world takes notice! BRAVO!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Album, September 1, 2010
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
This is a great album.
As much as I enjoyed "Esperanza"--her second album--I must say that "Chamber Music Society" is a definitive leap forward. Her voice texture is richer, her compositions/arrangements are beyond impressive, and her musicianship is inspiring. Two thumbs up!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, May 28, 2011
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
If you like Esperanza Spalding, you'll probably like her latest effort, "Chamber Music Society." In many ways, it builds on the style she's cultivated since her release of "Junjo." While Ms. Spalding is certainly an accomplished musician and excellent singer, I'm not sure she's established a firm sense of who she is as a musician yet. Since "Junjo," and now with "Chamber Music Society," her approach seems to be modal but not quite in the traditional hard bop sense of say a Wayne Shorter or Andrew Hill. I may be missing something but most of the songs here aren't what one could call "blues based" but seem an exercise in chromatic modulation up and down the fingerboard. As a result, there's plenty of "esoteric" harmonies but there's an absence of soul that's present in Shorter, Hill, or Hutcherson. At times, she reminds me of Flora Purim, only without Corea's Fender Rhodes. And that's okay -- she doesn't have to sound like anyone else but herself; I just wonder if the reason why the songs on her albums seem interchangeable is because she hasn't figured out how to break out of the approach to writing and playing that has defined her so far. While I liked "Junjo," "Chamber Music Society" left me a bit disappointed. In fact, insofar as the Grammys are ever "fair," Wynton Marsalis should have taken the award for "Vitoria Suite" before this album. But, perhaps a renewed interest and larger audience for jazz can be affected by Ms. Spalding's popularity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Music From A Vital New Talent, March 22, 2012
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
As is often the case,the hype surrounding Esperanza's first album Esperanza seemed to be as thick as reinforced concrete. And it led me to believe her talents were more in self promotion than in the expression of talent. I suppose it's generational. That situation I just presented has been a case between myself and music many times before. Particularly when it comes to female talent. In Esperanza's case there is the possibility that I read the hype wrongly on all ends. I actually discovered this album,which I also avoided at first,discarded at a local Goodwill. Since she had a third record coming out that was actually peaking my interest,I thought I'd give this album a try first to see what my thoughts were on this talent. The title of this regard chamber music,apparently a communal style of acoustic playing without horns or enormous orchestration,did seem like an economically feasible concept. After all it's easy to become a little jaundiced on this in an economic climate when even creative artists seems to be doing everything on the cheap. No matter the case,the word cheap simply doesn't apply to anything here.

Showcasing Esperanza in a setting including only a pianist,drummer and percussionist along with her upright bass and singing this album has a sound that's hard to describe. No this music is not made in a complicated fashion. But the harmonic interplay between the instrumentation on songs such as "Little Fly","Knowledge Of Good And Evil","Really Very Small" and "Wild Is The Wind" is....well honestly very extraordinary. I cannot say I've heard melodies and chords that flow together in quite this manner before in my years of music listening. Having been an acoustic bass player myself in my youth,I'd have to say Esperanza's bass parts are the most flowing and coherent aspect of the music here. It glides along perfectly with her beautiful (and thankfully never whiny) jazz singing and wordless vocalese that are the most tremendous I've heard second only,of course to Flora Purim. On "Apple Blossom",the Brazillian aspect of her sound comes through on a close vocal duet with none other than Milton Naschimento,another highly distinctive musical talent. Throughout the rest of the album "What A Friend","Winter Sun","Inutil Paisagem" and the closer "Short And Sweet" she explores a more rhythmically upbeat Brazillian funk sound. Yet at the same time done totally acoustically and with her expansive lyrics.

Overall this is an extremely musical album,with lyrics that are very poetic and thought provoking. Whether it be what she's singing or what she's playing,the person listening to this music will be put into a place where they realize that it's alright to think about the music they are listening to. Yes it's complicated melodically. And she doesn't make it sound like it isn't. But somehow it's very accessible at the same time. The melodies that are here are very strong ones. And lyrical once too. And even though her talent is sometimes overwhelming and her music follows suit,hers is a creative journey that the listener might just feel welcomed enough into to take with her. In my personal case,a part of me wonders what it would've been like if I'd grown up to be her male musical counterpart. I mean if I'd kept up with studies on the upright bass. Probably unlikely considering my love of electricity in music. Either way now have a very deep respect for what Spalding dose. And the creative vision she has. And also the fact that she flaunts and celebrates her ambitions for musical intelligence and innovation. They say that jazz critics are still searching for the next great innovator in the music. Knowing that subculture's tendency to only accept innovation in jazz acoustically,Esperanza might just be what they were looking for all along.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Esperanza is doing what detractors are not....making art, March 1, 2011
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This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
Some people wonder why there's a wall between artists and the public. Most of the public is appreciative. Some are outright abusive and chippy, complaining Esperanza isn't doing this or that or sounds like somebody else they heard once. Instead of chipping away at what an artist is doing as if the complainer is some privileged royalty who must be "entertained" or else whoooop: bad reveiw, the advice to complainers is go out and make your own art. Esperanza did.

Love her hilarious album cover on the Chamber Music Society. It has numerous cultural references over the heads of most detractors.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Album!, September 26, 2010
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
Definitely one that I enjoyed listening to. Has a new sense of cross genre implementation. She uses a canvas that is somewhat foreign to the jazz scene today. Very much in the likes of Billy Childs, I see her having a promising future. Could you imagine the music she and Billy Childs could make? I'm waiting for that album : )
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jazz vocalist of the Year, September 1, 2010
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
I love the concept of this album. It presents a maturity and yet has the vibrancy you'd expect from a young artist. Jazz artists like her and Christian Scott (Yesterday You Said Tomorrow), who are both associated with the Berklee College of Music in Boston, makes things bright for contemporary jazz music further into the 21st century. If you are considering this album without first having and listening to her previous albums, check out Esperanza and her debut Junjo. Hopefully she'll get award attention and further success with this album.

Added Sept. 3: I just saw a performance by Esperanza on PBS Austin City Limits and she was AMAZING! A recording does not do this girl justice. I really hope to catch a live performance if she comes to Ohio.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my thing, March 8, 2011
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
I feel a bit bad about reviewing this CD at all. It may in fact be a five-star release in the ears of many listeners, but it just didn't work for me. I'd put "Chamber Music Society" in a musical category I call "I can respect it, but I just don't like it all that well." That's not a bad thing. For example, much of The Beatles' work falls into that category - good music created by obviously talented people that just doesn't engage my interest.
With respect to Spalding's release, her talent is obvious, especially her bass playing and her arranging. It's the singing that gets to me, and, again, this is a personal bias. I find much jazz singing kind of affected, especially when vocalists scat, which is what Spalding does throughout most of the disc. Spalding may indeed be a brilliant vocalist; I just don't get it.
I kind of liked the feel of the non-vocal music, but it kind of starts to drift by in a narcotic haze. Releases that are all of one tempo and mood run the risk of blending together. In short, this isn't a straight-up jazz release, so buyer beware.
I'd recommend borrowing a copy of this disc first, and then buying it - hey, we need to support young artists - if it's your thing.
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27 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissent, February 2, 2011
This review is from: Chamber Music Society (Audio CD)
I have Esperanza Spalding's debut album and it is wonderful. She's a VERY talented musician, bass player, and singer. I was really looking forward to Spalding developing modern jazz for years to come and I still have hope. However, while there is a lot of interesting and complex composition and playing on Chamber Music, this particular CD struck me as that "experimental" album that many newly-minted, successful musicians feel compelled to record. It struck me as a forced attempt to blend elements of Classical discord with elements of Jazz improvisation. Like Miles Davis said regarding Ornette Coleman - "you've got to have some melody."

There's very little here, musically, other than escoteric, intelletual experimentation and musically, she is brilliant. Such experimentation is vital to creating compelling beautiful music. However, as with any finished product, the mark of a great artist is the judgment to know what should be left on the floor. Much of what should have been left on the floor was recorded. I wish her well and hope she's gotten the experimental itch out of her system. Regarding her Grammy Nominee, yes, I hope she beats Justin Beiber - this CD is far superior to anything Justin Beiber's hair and mixers can put out, but that ain't sayin' much. On this CD, the emporer has no clothes.
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Chamber Music Society
Chamber Music Society by Esperanza Spalding
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