Review Summary: Best jazz album of 2008
It was late at night and The Late Show with David Letterman was almost off the air. I hadn't slept in over 24 hours- the pixels on the television were starting to melt together. All of a sudden, the picture cleared up, my eyes widened, and a rush of energy woke me up. I was literally on the edge of my seat. "Who is this?" I found myself repeating this out loud in excitement. Her name is Esperanza Spalding, possibly one of the most talented musicians to ever grace the stage on David Letterman's talk show. At a meek age of 20 she became the youngest professor at Berklee College of Music, and while that is certainly impressive, it doesn't automatically mean she's got the talent to lead a jazz band. However, listen to her impressive debut, Junjo
, and I'm sure you will agree, she definitely does
have the talent.
is the sophomore effort by singer and jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding. She also serves as the producer, as well as chief composer and songwriter, and she's as beautiful as she is talented. While Esperanza
is jazz at heart, don't be completely fooled here, this is sprinkled with pop, R&B, and Latin (with help from brilliant flamenco guitarist Niño Josele), making Esperanza
as diverse as it is fun. Her voice, often the driving force, is gorgeous, her "scatting" is enjoyable, and her Spanish is inviting. Beyoncé comes to mind in thinking of comparisons, but this isn't quite fair to Miss Spalding's variety and beauty as a vocalist. She is truly unique.
thrives on the outstanding vocals and brilliant musicianship, it suffers in length at just over one hour. While that might not seem too lengthy, some of the tracks here drag just a bit, most notably on "I Adore You." Length does work in her favor on a couple of occasions. "If That's True" is a seven and a half minute all out jam session that truly embodies the very soul of the word "jazz." At 8 minutes, Esperanza's reworking of Johnny Green's "Cuerpo Y Alma" (Body and Soul) is diverse enough to stay interesting until the very end, especially with Esperanza's scats and freestyle vocals along side the 5/4 time signature. "Precious" is one of the best songs on this album, and one of my favorite songs of 2008. It's poppy core makes it catchy, the bass line makes it cool, and the vocals really shine here. All in all, Esperanza
is one refreshing album.
Despite her youth, Esperanza Spalding has really burst into the jazz scene with fervor and grace. Her talent is obvious, i can only hope that on her next effort she allows someone else to take the producer reigns, and with the right person, Esperanza Spalding could be a force in jazz for years to come.