Esperanza Spalding – Chamber Music Society – Heads Up International 180 gram audiophile vinyl HUI 32454-01 (2 discs), 76:08 *****:
(Esperanza Spalding – acoustic bass, vocals; Leo Genovese – piano, Rhodes, Melodica, keyboards); Terri Lyne Carrington – drums; Quintino Cinalli – percussion, Candombe Drums, Bambo Leguera; Entcho Todorov – violin; Lois Martin – viola; David Eggar – cello; Milton Nascimento – vocals; Gretchen Parlato – vocals; Ricardo Vogt – guitar; Tivon Penicott – tenor saxophone; Corey King – trombone; Igmar Thomas – trumpet; Justin Brown – drums)
Certainly when Esperanza Spalding won a Grammy, it was considered a surprise. Despite performing at President Obama’s Nobel Prize ceremony in Norway in 2009, her career was building slowly. However, the jazz community has been aware of her brilliance for a long time. When Chamber Music Society was released in 2010 (reviewed Here), Spalding emerged as gifted, musician, vocalist and band leader. The critical raves for the album carried over to the pop-insulated Grammies.
The core of this album was the merger of string-based chamber music with improvisational jazz. With originality and verve, she has recorded original compositions and unusual covers. Delicate chamber pieces (“The Fly”), Brazilian –influenced songs (“Inutil Paisagem”, “Winter Sun”), folk-based tunes (“Apple Blossom”) and inspired string pieces (“Knowledge Of Good And Evil”, “Wild Is The Wind”) are performed in a fresh integrated style. Spalding’s vocal finesse emerges as she demonstrates a wide array of styles. Her propensity for arrangement and songwriting sets her apart from many jazz musicians who attempt to sing. The original project is covered on the first three sides of the LP.
Side D consists of two “bonus” tracks. Chamber Music Society (Behind The Scenes) is a lengthy, detailed interview about the making of the album. Spalding comments on a variety of subjects including working with Milton Nascimento (a musical hero) and Gretchen Parlato (a fellow musician/vocalist she considers a kindred spirit). The highlight of this side is a sneak preview (“Morning”) of the upcoming release, Radio Music Society. It appears that Spalding is embracing a newer sound. The cut adds a horn section that transforms the song into a funk/groove mode. The thematic elements explore traditional and modern jazz disciplines.
This 180 gram 2-LP vinyl issue augments the different tones and moods of Chamber Music Society. Spalding’s amazing vocals, (and those of the other singers) translate well onto vinyl. Additionally, the string instruments sound more natural and defined than the standard CD.
Side A: Little Fly; Knowledge Of Good And Evil; Really Very Small Side B: Chacarera; Wild Is The Wind; Apple Blossom; As A Sprout Side C: What A Friend; Winter Sun: Inutil Paisagem Short And Sweet Side D; Chamber Music Society (Behind The Scenes); Morning