Monday, June 30, 2008

Esperanza Spalding

This album will unequivocally be on my best of list for 2008. No question about it. I've been listening to it for the last week or so at least twice a day. In the morning, during the day, in bed at night, you name it and this album has been hitting the sweet spot. It's simply titled Esperanza (Spanish for "hope"), and it's the sophomore release from jazz sensation Esperanza Spalding. She composes, she sings, and she plays bass for the album, which came out at the end of May.

There's two things that I love about this album: Esperanza, and all of the musicians behind her. In other words, everything. Esperanza's voice has a soaring precision to it that is gracefully elegant, and you can tell that she nails each note the exact way she wants to. I have next to no music training, but even my ear can tell how dead on she is when her voice glides through the register. While performing such beautiful vocal duties (equally well in three different languages I might add - English, Spanish, and Portuguese), she also plays bass on the album, and has been prestigiously recognized for her ability with the instrument. Although having only picked up the bass at 15, she was invited to be the youngest instructor ever to work at Berklee College of Music at age 20, a scant five years after having first began with it. Five years!?!?

Behind Esperanza is a talented group of jazz musicians in their own right with some swinging chops, and are the other reason I enjoy this album so much. If you were to strip away all of the lovely vocals, you'd still have an incredible collection of instrumentals. In fact, two of the tracks are instrumentals. Try If That's True below for a taste of some Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers inspired hard-bop. At other points in the album you'll also hear some trumpet work that reminds me of the great Dizzy Gillespie, some Latin-tinged jazz such as the fourth track I Adore You, as well as some scat singing by Esperanza which will make you miss Ella Fitzgerald. And while the album will bring you back to recall the cats who played it the first time around, it's got a modern day luster that makes it its own.

But these two elements together, her vocals and the musicians' instruments, and you get an album that's just right from beginning to end. Check out these two tracks and I'm sure you'll be convinced to get the entire album. If there's one album that I convince you to pick up this month, make this album it.

Visit her website, her label Heads Up International, and become her friend on MySpace.


Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Moanin' : Jazz In Paris: 1958 Paris Olympia

Dizzy Gillespie & Roy Eldridge - Trumpet Blues : Roy & Diz

No comments: