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CD: Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society

CD: Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society

Killer hooks, head-nodding grooves and unexpected byways make this her best yet

Songs that are more Steely Dan than stereotypical pop: Esperanza Spalding

Following last year's remarkable Grammy win for Best New Artist, the first time a jazz musician has won the award, the bassist, singer and composer returns with a companion piece to her previous disc, the intimate Chamber Music Society. And within a few bars of the scene-setting lead-off track, “Radio Song”, you're completely hooked. Brilliantly imitating the experience of searching through the radio frequencies until a killer hook suddenly leaps out at you, this vibrantly coloured musical collage is quite unlike anything else you've heard from Esperanza Spalding.

On tracks such as “Cinnamon Tree” and “Crowned & Kissed” there's a new expansiveness to her writing. Radio Music Society may be a song-based collection, but the songs are clearly more in the vein of Steely Dan than your stereotypical pop vehicle. That's to say they can veer off to fascinating and unexpected byways in a heartbeat while – and this is the genius part – never loosing that compelling, head-nodding groove. It's an artistic balancing act that Robert Glasper understands well.

If the first single from the album, the consciousness-raising “Black Gold”, shows Spalding's facility in penning hooks that immediately lodge in your brain, the album's two covers - Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It” and Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species” - illustrate how easily she brings contrasting material within her aesthetic orbit and makes it entirely her own. The big-band stylings of “Hold on Me”, on the other hand, offer a tantalising glimpse of an entirely new avenue to explore.

Calling on the very best musicians and singers to help her out – including Joe Lovano, Lionel Loueke, Lalah Hathaway and Gretchen Parlato – Radio Music Society captures the idiosyncratic beauty and communicative power of Spalding's music to perfection.

Watch a video of "Black Gold":

The first single from the album, “Black Gold”, shows Spalding's facility in penning hooks that immediately lodge in your brain


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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