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!
Never mind that in 2005--at the age of 20--Esperanza Spalding became the youngest instructor in the history of Berklee College of Music. It's what's on wax that counts--or CD, or MP3, if preferred. On Esperanza
, her debut set for Heads Up International, Spalding presents a prowess on the acoustic bass that many bassists with far more experience could be inspired by. Need proof? Check out "Mela," on which Spaldings chops on the upright are matched (if not exceeded) by her tangerine-and-honey vocals. There is a lilt in her voice that, to be sure, puts the blind optimism of her youth front and center. But who needs another jaded jazz singer? This multi-lingual set starts off with the mellow, mid-tempo "Ponta De Areia." From there Spalding winds her way through an appropriate group of mostly self-penned songs that are simultaneously sweet, commanding, calming, and intense. Of particular note are the hopeful "Espera," and her take on "Cuerpo y Alma" (the jazz standard "Body & Soul" in Spanish). And yes, purists, she can scat. Her name, Esparanza, is the Spanish word for "hope." Here's hope for a bright future and satisfying career following this wonderfully refreshing album. --Eric C.P. Martin