I first heard of Esperanza Spalding when I was reviewing Fourplay's 2008 Energy album. Spalding provided the vocal for a song called "Prelude For Lovers." I liked the song and loved her voice, so I Googled her, went to her Web page and saw a picture of this striking woman with a big afro standing on a beach holding an upright bass. Spalding released her second album, Esperanza that same year. She was everywhere in 2008 and '09, and for good reason. Esperanza showcased Spalding's instrumental dexterity on a record that featured funk, world music, R&B and jazz at a very high quality.
It would have been easy for Spalding to release another fusion record, and it could be said that her third record, Chamber Music Society, is a fusion record. It's just that, this time around, Spalding decided to fuse jazz and classical music. Spalding definitely raises the degree of difficulty on this disc. However, anyone who believes that classical music is a synonym for stodgy is going to be surprised. Spalding displays the same kind of energetic playing on Chamber Music Society that she showcased on Esperanza. In fact, this album is even more rooted in jazz, which will make the traditionalists very happy. Spalding and the other members of her rhythm section, Terri Lyne Carringtion and Leo Genovese, work well as a unit and stand out as improvisers. Spalding also. Many of the songs on Chamber Music Society are vocals. However, several of them feature Spalding engaging in what could be called vocalize - a classical music vocal technique that is similar to scatting. I like the creative integrity that Spalding shows on Chamber Music Society, and that integrity is matched by the quality of the work.
By Howard Dukes