If you are one of the people who believe jazz is dead. That nothing else can be said and or done with this style of music then I have two responses to you. One you are clearly not listening to what’s going on around you and two you must have never heard of Esperanza Spalding. Esperanza Splading is a jazz bassist and singer from Oregon who bursted onto the music scene in 2008 with her second release Esperanza. This album gave her critical acclaim which resulted in her winning a Grammy Award for best new artist beating out Drake (rapper) and Justin Bieber (pop singer) these artists had much more popularity then she had. It also was a historic event because she is the first jazz musician to ever win the award. With a plethora of musicians at her disposable including Leo Genovese on piano and Otis Brown on drums this album sounds energetic, latin, and has touches of r&b and soul. So without further to do let’s look at the album Esperanza
Esperanza begins with the song “Ponta De Areia” which begins in a very unexpected way drums with some audio effects sounding like water bubbling, and Esperanza singing along in Portuguese. When Leo Genovese comes in with his chords on the piano everything locks into place and the groove is solidified. Otis Brown does a great job holding the grove down and changing during the bridge. Leo Genovese then solos and does a great job starting off with lyrical ideas and building up his solo from there. Throughout this album Genovese brings it in just about every solo he takes it’s truly a treat listening to him solo.
Being that this album is twelve tracks long I feel like going in depth on each song would be pleasure for me and torture for you so I will highlight a few tracks that I feel are important to pay attention to. After “Ponta De Areia” comes one of Esperanza’s most notable tracks “I Know You Know”. It has a lot of the things we can expect from Esperanza Spalding funky bass lines, modern jazz piano, and great singing and groovy breakdowns. The bridge in this tune is especially powerful really helps bring us into the piano solo and also helps bring us back into the song very well.
“Fall in” is another powerful song on this record. I’m pointing this one out because it’s one of the unique songs in an already unique album. Here Esperanza takes a break from all the energy she has built with her first two songs and serenades us with a ballad. The words are powerful and Esperanza sings with just a little accompaniment from her group. Genovese does a good job of filling up the space in the song but does not get in his singer’s way which is important not to do when accompanying someone. Overall this tune is elegant and beautiful and is a nice detour from the path the album is usually on.
“Cuerpo Y Alma” is one of my personal favorites on this album for a multitude of reasons. One it’s a jazz standard made fresh by singing it in spanish Cuerpo Y Alma translates to Body and Soul which is a jazz standard. Two Esperanza just owns this song, she sings with passion and plays with conviction. And finally the piano solo, just magical. There is essentially nothing else Genovese could have done more on this solo he attacked it in every way possible. Did I mention Esperanza also solos matching every note she plays by scatting along? Yeah check this song out it might be the best on the album.
The second half of this album is just as good as the first. With Esperanza singing about a past love in “She got to you” which also features a mean sax solo by Donald Harrison. “Precious” is a softer tune similar to “Fall in” it’s a nice change of pace, while “Mela” brings back that energy with a bang from start to finish. The album concludes with “Samba em Preludio” which Esperanza again sings in a different language. The tune is a nice relaxing end with Nino Josele playing a beautiful guitar solo putting a perfect end to a perfect album.
Thankfully artists like Esperanza Spalding are arriving into the music scene to push Jazz music into new and unexpected places. Esperanza is a great example of this delving into different styles of music, modern improvisation, and still playing a couple of standards. Esperanza Spalding is here to stay and tours all over the place. She has played at most of the major Jazz festivals and different venues all over the country and the world. She will be one of the pricier jazz shows you go to, but I assure you it’s worth every penny.