Chamber Music Society (Heads Up Records)

Esperanza Spalding

Released August 17, 2010

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2010




Centuries ago, long before the advent of radio or recording technology, chamber music was the music for the masses – the music in which people from nearly every segment of society could find meaning and relevance. A decade into the 21st century, Esperanza Spalding – the bassist, vocalist and composer who first appeared on the jazz scene in 2008 – takes a contemporary approach to this once universal form of entertainment with Chamber Music Society, her August 17, 2010, release on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group.

Backed by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and pianist Leo Genovese – and inspired by the classical training of her younger years – Esperanza creates a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is a sound that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical music.

“So much of my early musical experience was spent playing chamber music on the violin, and it’s a form of music that I’ve always loved,” says Esperanza. “I was very inspired by a lot of classical music, and chamber music in particular. I’m intrigued by the concept of intimate works that can be played and experienced among friends in an intimate setting. So I decided to create my version of contemporary chamber music, and add one more voice to that rich history.”

Chamber Music Society is a place where connoisseurs of classical music and jazz devotees – and fans of other musics as well – can find common ground. The recording offers a chamber music for modern times – one that brings together people of different perspectives and broadens their cultural experience, just as it did in an earlier age.

Esperanza first took the world by storm in 2008 with her self-titled Heads Up debut recording that spent more than 70 weeks on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. Two years later, she continues to push the boundaries of jazz and explore the places where it intersects with other genres. Co-produced by Esperanza and Gil Goldstein, Chamber Music Society surrounds Esperanza with a diverse assembly of musicians. At the core are pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and percussionist

Quintino Cinalli. The string trio is comprised of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin, cellist David Eggar and Gretchen Parlato on voice. The great Milton Nascimento also makes a guest appearance on one track.

“Gil is really a master at integrating a sound that caters to string instruments,” says Esperanza. “I’ve learned so much from working with him, and I’ve gained confidence in my abilities as an arranger and producer as well.”

In January 2011, Chamber Music Society climbed to No. 1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart, and on February 13, 2011, Esperanza won the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist. She is the first jazz musician to ever win this award.

On February 22, 2011, Heads Up will release a limited edition, 180 gram 2-LP set with exclusive bonus material. In addition to the repertoire on the original Chamber Music Society CD, the vinyl LP edition includes audio commentary by Esperanza, song snippets from the Chamber Music Society recording sessions and a sneak peek bonus track from Radio Music Society.

Track Listing:

1. Little Fly (William Blake / Esperanza Spalding) 3:33

2. Knowledge of Good and Evil (Esperanza Spalding) Voice: Gretchen Parlato 7:59

3. Really Very Small (Esperanza Spalding) 2:44

4. Chacarera (Leo Genovese) 7:27

5. Wild Is the Wind (Dimitri Tiomkin / Ned Washington) 5:37

6. Apple Blossom (Esperanza Spalding) Guitar : Ricardo Vogt; Voice: Milton Nascimento 6:02

7. As a Sprout (Esperanza Spalding) 0:41

8. What a Friend (Esperanza Spalding) 4:54

9. Winter Sun (Esperanza Spalding) 6:48

10. Inutil Paisagem (Antônio Carlos Jobim / Aloysio de Oliveira) Voice: Gretchen Parlato 4:38

11. Short and Sweet (Esperanza Spalding) 5:52


Esperanza Spalding: vocals and bass

Terri Lynne Carrington: drums

Leo Genovese: drums

Milton Nascimento: vocals (6)

Gretchen Parlato: vocals (2, 10)

Quintino Cinalli: percussion

Ricardo Vogt: guitar

Entcho Todorov: violin

Lois Martin: viola

David Eggar: cello

Recorded October 8-10, 2009 and January 14-19, 2010, at Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ, and Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA

Produced by Esperanza Spalding and Gil Goldstein


The expression “What goes around… comes around” might not have been in the lexicon of 18th century poet William Blake but the sentiment certainly applies with the application of his work on Chamber Music Society. Imbued with Blake’s dissentient spirit from the get-go with ‘Little Fly’, the 26-year-old Esperanza Spalding originally from Portland in Oregon uses the album to not just present her gifts as an acoustic bassist which word has got round about for some time especially since last year’s Folk Art Us5 album with Joe Lovano, she also sings in a breezily confident way, scatting resourcefully on ‘Knowledge of Good And Evil’ while luxuriating in Gil Goldstein’s wonderfully giving string arrangements that bring out the lustre and potential of the imaginative settings of Blake. Later covering other material especially the Dimitri Tiomkin/Ned Washington evergreen song associated with Nina Simone and David Bowie, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, her languid style sits beautifully against Leo Genovese’s curling melodica lines and the approaching presence of a tango rhythm.

Spalding brought this Heads Up-released album to life at the London Jazz Festival last month and as Mike Flynn reported at the time for the Jazzwise festival blog she had a distinctive approach to her stagecraft: “Removing a light overcoat, sitting down and slipping off her shoes, then pouring herself a glass of red wine, taking a couple of tentative sips, all made for a rather disconcerting but subtly dramatic set up scene for the concert to come.”

You could do worse than follow suit and pour yourself a celebratory glass, as many of the Jazzwise scribes undoubtedly did in voting for the album in significant numbers, and listen to Chamber Music Society. You can just imagine Blake transported to December 2010 snowed up in his studio, working on a new artwork dreaming about the apple blossom as he listens to this revitalising album.

Stephen Graham (Jazzwise)