From the first song to the last, Chamber Music Society –soon to be released, August 17, 2010 on Heads Up International, Esperanza Spalding’s second album– resounds like a siren song, equal parts invitation and warning. You will be seduced by Spalding’s genreless take on classical chamber music, seamlessly infused with contemporary jazz, folk and soul. From the first flights in “Little Fly”, Spalding elegantly takes a William Blake poem and sets it to a sultry dreamscape string trio, accompanied by her own bass and melodic voice. The rest of the album remains elusive and interpretive, rooted in Esperanza’s jazz and early classical training. You can almost hear, Spalding’s Portland, wrong-side-of-the-track anguish, slip through in some of the songs. But, Esperanza’s control and masterful compositions, reign the singer’s story into a more mediated and mitigated experience.
I would have liked to hear more of Spalding’s own voice come through the album, but Chamber Music Society offers jazzy, airy and light moments of earthly delights while tempting you through a journey past the carnal, into the almost ethereal. Spalding’s voice echoes the variance of Ella Fitzgerald and the agony of Billie Holiday in “Wild as the Wind.” With a strong string trio, comprised of violinist Entcho Todorov, violinist Lois Martin, cellist David Eggar and Gretchen Parlato on voice, the album moves elegantly through an array of emotions, from the softness of youthful discovery, to the aged and weathered wisdom in Milton Nascimento duet on “Apple Blossom.”
With lush and lilting moments across the album, Chamber Music Society’s sophistication and sincerity will wilt the heart and soothe the soul. Esperanza Spalding promises to offer another installment, a second project soon to be released. I hope her next album gives more of her personal story and insights into this musician’s world view and multi-lingual perspective. Needless to say, Chamber Music Society is the kind of album you listen to after a long day at work, with a tall glass of wine and a good book. Esperanza Spalding will ease you through the night.