Esperanza Spalding album review

Jazz singer/bassist sets her post-Grammy-winning sights on world domination

Radio Music Society
4/5

Four albums in and the rise of jazz singer/bassist Esperanza continues apace as she sets her post-Grammy-winning sights on world domination. Rather than exploiting her good looks and go all jazz-pop á la Norah Jones, Spalding has previously explored gently leftfield Latin jazz and dabbled in string-laden sounds on her second LP, Chamber Music Society, quoting William Blake poems and singing beautiful bossa novas.

But Radio Music Society kicks such introspection into touch, coming on like a funk-fuelled block party. The opening ‘Radio Song’ is typical of Spalding’s compositional sleight of hand, here layering multiple vocal hooks while dusting jazz improv, horn breaks and tricky grooves underneath. FM-friendly originals such as ‘Black Gold’ and ‘City of Roses’ (produced by Q-Tip) sit happily alongside a dazzling take on Jacko’s Stevie Wonder-penned ‘I Can’t Help It’ and a mind-blowing remake of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Endangered Species’.

The fact it all flows effortlessly, with her increasingly confident soul diva voice flying above – and some Larry Graham-esque bass adding gritty ballast beneath – confirms Spalding is the real deal and then some.

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