Review : Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society
L.A. TimesNo matter how you felt about Esperanza Spalding’s 2011 Grammy win — and if you’re still genuinely disappointed, it’s time for a long look in the mirror — there’s no questioning her willingness to live up to it. Conceived as a companion to her breakthrough “Chamber Music Society,” Spalding’s follow-up melds airtight jazz with pop, funk and soul with such disarming assurance that it could be shipped with an introduction from the bassist-composer reading, “Now that I have your attention...”
Sometimes Spalding’s ambitions get the better of her, as with the moody but meandering social commentary “Vague Suspicions.” Her interpretation of Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species” strains with such knotty, fusion-shaded complexity that there’s little room left to breathe. Still, there’s no arguing with Spalding’s talent for disregarding expectations while spinning her influences into something new. Where she looks next is anybody’s guess, but it’ll be fascinating to hear....full text
GuardianThis ambitious new album from the Grammy-winning singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding is star-packed (Q-Tip, Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart, Lionel Loueke, Gretchen Parlato). Spalding's charisma, whimsical poetry and enthusiasm for jamming still run through the heavily produced set. Horns and organ wrap around Spalding's R&B vocal on Black Gold; misty classical string sounds ease in the gently funky Cinnamon Tree; Wayne Shorter's Endangered Species is remade in the spirit of Shorter's own version and from a jazz perspective Spalding never loses touch with. There are torchy swaggers, world-jazzy guitar grooves propelling smoky saxes, and political songs with only a Hammond organ for company. It's predominantly a pop record, but it took a musician with a very broad view to make it this way....full text
Rolling StoneLike Pam Grier with a stand-up bass in place of a sawed-off shotgun, this jazz fusionista earned the baff led admiration of millions when she snatched the 2011 Best New Artist Grammy away from Justin Bieber. A dazzling player skilled at butterfly-zoo arrangements, the 27-year-old steps toward pop here, echoing Stevie Wonder and Aja-era Steely Dan. Despite a charmingly lithe voice, her song writing has a way to go; high points are covers (Wonder’s "I Can’t Help It") and some groove enhanced Q-Tip co-productions. Someone call Questlove: Those 'fros could make magic together.
BBCAfter the breakthrough of 2010’s Chamber Music Society, the album which saw bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding grab a Best New Artist Grammy as Justin Bieber’s publicists wondered, “Who’s she?” comes the tricky business of, “What’s next?”
Jazz snobs might already be turning up noses and closing down ears at a musician tainted by mainstream accolades, but Spalding was touring with saxophone colossus Joe Lovano a few months after waltzing off with the headline-making statuette. So everybody would do well to avoid a rush to premature judgment. In any case, as she showed on her 2008 album Esperanza, she really has her heart in that hallowed place in the 70s when soul, funk, jazz and Latin sounds liberally intertwined to break down the barrier between highbrow and pop sensibilities in African-American music....full text
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