Esperanza Spalding - Esperanza (Heads Up, 2008)
There has been a big buzz around bassist and vocalist Spalding, and I was curious but wary, wondering if she would just be another pale pop-jazz performer being marketed as the next big thing. But I was very happy to find out that she was the real deal, melding jazz with real chops, along with Latin music, soul and R&B into a pretty successful brew. She is joined by a rotating cast of musicians on this album including Horacio Hernandez on drums, Donald Harrison on alto saxophone and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Spalding dominates the proceedings, playing rock solid bass and singing in a sweet but never cloying manner. A Latin version of "Body and Soul" ("Cuerro y Alma") is one of the highlights, because it gives a fresh twist to a familiar tune, as does “Ponta De Areia” a breezy and infectious Milton Nascimento composition. While fans of progressive jazz may not find much of note here, mainstream jazz aficionados especially those of Stan Getz's bossa nova recordings and partisans of Norah Jones and Diana Krall looking for something more exotic and challenging may enjoy this music.
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