Album Title: Esperanza
Performer: Esperanza Spalding
Label and #: Heads Up HUCD 3140
Play Time: 67'20"
24-year old Esperanza Spalding is wise enough to give her musicians free reign when recording her Latin-simmered soul-jazz tunes. Not that the compositions of her second album Esperanza, aren't compelling in their own right. They most certainly are. But when allowed to bloom and burn in the hands of pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Horacio 'El Negro' Hernandez and percussionist Jamey Haddad, solid songs become memorable, even brilliant performances. The already accomplished bassist/vocalist has matured beyond her years and beyond her debut album, 2005's Junjo, writing almost all her own material in a vein that brings iconic superstars to mind.
Spalding sings like a cross between Minnie Riperton and Flora Purim, often writes in a style recalling Milton Nascimento and seems wildly indebted to the rich melodies of Stevie Wonder. Her songs really sing when she lets the rhythms fly high as in "I Adore You" which recalls the energetic burn of Airto's classic Virgin Land; the maddeningly funky fresh "She Got To You" (which tumbles time on its ear); and the gritty "Mela" (an apparent tribute to the mighty Francisco Mela). Spalding is comfortable enough singing her standards-styled vehicle "Love in Time" but sounds inspired on what could be a crossover hit, "Precious". Bass solos are infrequent. Spalding is more likely to vocalize in unison with her smoothly plucked lines. It all adds up to what they used to call a triple-threat talent and Esperanza Spalding's ascendancy is surely unstoppable now.