Tag Archives: esperanza spalding

Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society

There’s a conundrum within the jazz-inflected R&B of the acclaimed bassist’s fourth album, and it’s based on identity. Spalding, who famously won the “Best New Artist” Grammy last year, is a superb instrumentalist, gifted improviser, decent singer, and fledgling pop songwriter. Because she’s got big ears and plenty of ambition, she’s positioned Radio Music Society to incorporate all these skills. It achieves its goal. You could dissect several of the tracks and come up with chunks of all the elements mentioned above. But as they form a whole, the melt all over each other and get a bit gooey. This 12-song program is a bit overwhelming, in the wearisome sense.


Like a mix of Minnie Ripperton and Meshell N’degeocello, Spalding flits through the music, negotiating funk beats, launching syncopation, and addressing rhythmic change-ups like a bronco rider daring to be thrown. Her agility is impressive, but the kaleidoscopic nature of the passages finds one song bleeding into the next. Taken individually, the melodies are attractive; heard together their jagged designs dare you to follow for three or four tracks in a row. This is one of the itchiest records I’ve ever heard.


Diamonds do shine when cracked away from the whole. “City of Roses” supports its jumpy architecture. “Cinnamon Tree” offers some  breathing room. Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It” has a gorgeous swoop. The title cut is strong as well, a tune about the magic that can emerge when spinning the dial during a car ride. Ultimately it might be good advice for Spalding’s disc – Radio Music Society sounds best while digesting each track on its own.


TONE AUDIO 

This Week’s Jazz Internet Wrap-Up

Esperanza Spalding got nudged further into the mainstream by earning herself a sizable chunk of real estate in the NY Times Fashion supplement, T. What’s it like to rock a $14K de la Renta?

NPR helped Bernie Worrell funk his way through “All The Things You Are.” What would Bird say?

Pi Recordings got a well-deserved moment in the sun with a Times biz profile. If it ever goes sour for Yulun and Seth, they could perhaps sell their entire imprint on Craig’s List, like Black Jazz was trying to do. Nate offered a little Pi interview lagniappe on his blog.

Speaking of Pi, Fieldwork (Iyer/Lehman/Sorey) packed The Stone for four sets. Told you they’d be good. Don’t miss Liberty Ellman on Saturday.

Darcy James Argue launched the site for Brooklyn Babylon, his multi-media collaboration with visual artist Danijel Zezelj. It unites projected animation, live painting, and an original score performed by Argue’s ever-impressive big band, Secret Society.

A Blog Supreme reported on the Jazz Audience Initiative’s provocative finding about the demographics of jazz ticket-buyers. Kids & kash are the koncerns.

Chris Barton says that the Joni/jazz affair in L.A. was a success in the large. I would like to have seen Kurt Elling bounce through “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines.”

Jason Crane’s 301st Jazz Session show connected with the inimitable Jamie Saft, who explained his ravishing New Zion Trio disc, working with Zorn, and getting a great sound in the studio. No mention of Spanish Donkey‘s disturbing grandeur Here’s a chunk of their world debut.

Kurt Gottschalk threw us to Dangerous Minds who threw us to a very cool, and very percussive, Sun Ra clip.

Herbie Hancock announced a solo tour, featuring both electric and acoustic keybs. In a new interview, he recalls when Miles made him take up the Rhodes.

The Voice interviewed Jenny Scheinman about her Mischief & Mayhem group, and she told ‘em about feathers falling out of the sky. I went to the show and clocked these three high points. Josh Jackson and company went to the show and brought it to the planet in real time (and archived time). Fred Kaplan went as well; seems he truly enjoyed himself.

In the midst of what’s been kinda/sorta deemed a vibraphone resurgence, Roy Ayers talked about Lionel Hampton. And in the midst of mucho pop competition, Christian McBride’s big band disc was the only jazz title to be included in Billboard’s Fall Album Preview.

Nate Chinen guided us in the right direction vis a vis New York jazz options during the next seven days.  He also reflected on some of the music that changed his life.

@peterhum found a restaurant called Thelonious Monkfish and @destinationout and others messed around with the #jazzrestaurants meme for a bit. A certain gentleman might have won with “Lenny White Castle.”

A new short-form documentary about David S. Ware was announced. “I work on concepts,” says the saxophonist. He also plays “My Ship” quite nicely. Doc hits  right here on August 30. New solo disc Organica, comes out on AUM Fidelity on October 25.

Terrell Stafford was applauded by his Temple bosses for helping kids on the edjumacation trip. A simple spin through this baby right here would teach young trumpeters a thing or two as well.

David Amram talked about French horn, pennywhistle and poetry. Speaking of poetry, Crane was inspired by Cervini.

We were reminded of the precious little time left for the streaming of the Robert Glasper /Darcy James Argue show. And there’s only 10 days left to get Steve Swell’s latest project off the ground.

Tom Hull applied a grade to a long list of new discs. I agree with him on the Eliane Elias title (not the “pale and purple” part, the guitar and percussionist part), but I would have nudged Chris Dingman’s disc a tad higher. Phil Freeman scrutinized the SFE’s extended work on Clean Feed, Positions & Descriptions.

@geniusbastard reminded his twitter stream that Kind of Blue dropped on August 17.  I played “Blue In Green” for the 12,134th time, and asked people to weigh in on their favorite moments from the disc.

Destination Out dropped some rare Jeanne Lee into our pockets. You do know they have tons of great FMP titles, right?

Jazz Times had Randy Brecker choose 10 key Lee Morgan tracks. Yep, he chose a Beatles tune.

Ted Gioia reminded us about Mingus’ thoughts on cat poop. Eat that chicken?

Mike Pride’s new edition of From Bacteria To Boys got a pat on the back from the Times.

Nat Hentoff talked BeanTown roots in Jazz Times.

Bruce Forman knows how to substitute a chord and how to twirl a lasso. Wonder if Bucky Pizzerelli can handle a six-shooter? We know these guys can.

McCoy Tyner was reported to be returning to Cape Town. After playing the NYC Blue Note, of course.

The Konceptions series at Korzo in Brooklyn kept on being excellent.

Red Barat’s “Chaal Baby” is used as the music bed in the new season of Its’ Always Sunny in Philadelphia promo clip.

The Monk Institute stressed their upcoming bash. All hail Aretha! This San Diego piano whiz is involved. Speaking of young talents

Eugene Holly wrote up the Mosaic MJQ box. Mr Whitehead had something to say about it recently, too.

Larry Applebaum gave Gretchen Parlato a run around the course. She did just fine. Howard Reich went to see Donald Harrison mess around with Bird. He did just fine.

Terence Blanchard talked Spike Lee and Clifford Brown. And then he told the L.A. Weekly his five fave film soundtracks. Can you guess the top dog?

Improvisers from the Pine Tree State brought Ellington to the hinterland. Maybe Bill McHenry will work some Duke into the set when he plays at the Barncastle, in Blue Hills, Maine, tonight. He’s joined by RJ Miller and fried shrimp addict, Jamie Saft. Did they get free rooms?

Ted Panken celebrated Mal Waldron’s birthday by sharing archival interviews. The beauty of the pianist’s music piqued Hank Shteamer’s interest and he evoked Ethan Iverson’s poetic investigation of his hero’s work. Here’s  one by Mal I’ve always liked.

Ian Patterson dug deep into trumpeter Cuong Vu. He asked about Pat Metheny, but not about that Jackson Browne cover.

I dropped a stream of Bill Frisell doing “Revolution” from the upcoming All We Are Saying. I also spent time having AccuJazz’s AACM channel wash over me. I forgot that they can claim two Mitchells.

George Colligan reflected on working with Gary Bartz.  Earlier in the summer an elated Bill Frisell, part of McCoy Tyner’s ensemble that particular week, said to me, “I get to work with Gary Bartz!!”

Alex W. Rodriguez put his writing career on hold and ponders how the jazz corner of Blogville has changed in the last two years.

Nicolas Payton wanted us to watch Miles having it out with Harry Reasoner. Harry: “Are you anti-white?” Miles: “Not all the time.”

Tears, Kudos, F-Bombs & Exclamation Points: Herbie Hancock Is An Esperanza Spalding Fan Boy

I was chatting with Herbie Hancock last night, and his recent Grammy wins came up. He was tickled to make it through “the mine field” of competition for the “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” cat. There, he stood shoulder to shoulder with  Gaga and Beyonce, Elton & Leon, Em and B.O.B., Katy and Snoop – it is a minefield of sorts. Any of ‘em could have swooped in and grabbed the Grammy. But the famed keyboardist snuck through, and he was surprised. The compeititon wasn’t exactly light over in the “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” realm either. Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis and Hank Jones were all in the running (“God, I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Hank Jones,” he said, “he was a major influence on me”). Hancock snatched that as well.

But what made him happiest was the domination of one Esperanza Spalding. Perhaps you’ve heard: the young bassist won the “Best New Artist” competition. And Hancock went ape shit.

“I was thrilled! I started crying; I had tears in my eyes. Her record, Chamber Music Society, is un-fucking-believable. She’s like 27 years old or something. It’s one of the finest records I’ve ever heard – I’ll tell you that. I listen and go “Oh my god, what is she doing? Incredible!” Justin Bieber – there’s no way he’s near that universe. It’s so far above him. He’s extremely talented, great voice, nice guy. But will he be doing something like that when he’s 27?”

“I can’t wait to play Esperanza’s record for Wayne Shorter. He lives about eight minutes from me. I don’t think he’s heard it.  He will flip! I had the record for about four months, and never had the time to play it. I put it on after she won. It was “What, I had no idea she was that far along.” I was blown away. She absolutely deserved it. I’ve played with her on a few occasions, and she’s a knockout. But what she and Gil Goldstein did on that record… The arrangements, the strings. So clever, so original. Harmonically impressive. Know what? She immediately inspired me to write some stuff. She’s got me writing! I’ll have to tell her that. “