Esperanza Spalding music review

The musical love child of Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus?

Chamber Music Society
4/5

Coming on like the love child of Joni Mitchell and bass legend Charles Mingus is outrageously talented 25-year-old US bassist/singer Spalding, whose second release is a shimmering, string-laden album of song-oriented jazz. She’s come a long way since her days as a teenage violinist in Oregon, before switching to double bass aged 14, and has avoided being marketed as a ‘black Norah Jones’.

This lush suite consolidates the promise of her scattergun debut. Ambitious from the off, it draws on Spalding’s classical and jazz roots, weaving Latin, Brazilian (as on ‘Apple Blossom’ with Milton Nascimento) and funky swing into the mix, and sets William Blake’s poem ‘Little Fly’ to an achingly lovely backdrop of string trio and double bass. Her voice is impressive too – be it breathy and soulful or jazzy and wild, it’s as rich and resonant as her bass playing. Yet it’s Spalding’s gutsy central performance (and that of pianist Leo Genovese) that augurs the arrival of jazz’s next big thing.

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