Bassist, Vocalist, Composer Esperanza Spalding Nominated For 2012 Alma Award
On Friday, September 21, some of the biggest names in entertainment unite for the 2012 National Council of La Raza (NCLR) ALMA Awards® on NBC, a one-of-a-kind tribute to the spirit of Latino talent in television, film, and music. The NCLR ALMA Awards® are an opportunity to applaud the incredible, enriching contributions that Latinos make to American culture and celebrate our country’s Hispanic heritage. For more on the ALMA Awards®: http://www.almaawards.com/
On March 20th, 2012, Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, released Radio Music Society, Spalding’s most diverse, ambitious and masterful recital yet. Radio Music Society, debuted at #10 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and spent 13 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart.
The songs on Radio Music Society are accompanied by conceptual short films, which further express Spalding's inspiration and story behind each track. Shot in various locations including New York City; Barcelona, Spain; and Portland, Oregon; all films will be available to purchasers of Radio Music Society as a digital download or on a DVD in the deluxe version.
For Esperanza Spalding’s tour dates: http://www.esperanzaspalding.com/rms/tour/
REVIEW - Esperanza Spalding – Radio Music Society (4 out of 5 Stars) – Heads Up – Concord Music Group
‘Radio Music Society’ is Spalding’s third album and the follow to ‘Chamber Music Society,’ the titles are way too similar but the singer says the new album is meant as a companion, rather than a sequel to the last one. “Originally I thought it would be fun to release a double album,” she explains, “One disc with an intimate, subtle exploration of chamber works and a second one in which jazz musicians explore song forms and melodies that are formatted more along the lines of what we would categorize as “pop songs.”
Spalding, as you may remember, won the Grammy for ‘Best New Artist’ last year, stunning the music world because not that many people knew who she was – many still don’t! Will this album change that? Maybe, ‘Radio Music Society” is certainly a richly textured, well-balanced adventure that cleverly marries Jazz, Pop and World music. Her vision is so clearly expressed on this album that I found myself listening alone with headphones at high volume so not to miss any of her hundreds of brilliant vocal nuances.
This album is easy. It’s so effortless. Spalding’s message is like a dance, a drug that’s hard to deny. Being adventurous, in the music industry, usually has its price but this lady has found the pocket, that inviting bridge that allows the listener to simply trust.
Spalding’s mother was a single parent in Portland, Oregon and home-schooled her daughter for a few years during elementary school. A very young Esperanza spotted classical cellist Yo Yo Ma on ‘Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood,’ so many years ago and her fate was set – she knew her mission in life.
The album opens with one of the best tracks on the project, ‘Radio Song,’ a reminder that Spalding doesn’t sound unlike Lani Hall, circa 1966, during her time with Sergio Mendes. She also has touches of that Sade groove. About the tune, Spalding says, "Everyone has the experience of turning on a car radio," she explains," mindlessly flipping through the dial and suddenly a fragment grabs you and you're totally digging it. I wanted to capture that moment when the music just sinks in. It's about the power of song, and how at the least it can save the day." The arrangements, the true star of this the album, are a beautiful tangled web of perfection. “Radio Song’ is also demonstrates that tight-rope balance of rooming Jazz and Pop under one roof – it’s gorgeous and inspiring!
“Cinnamon Tree” is a real gentle trip mixing so many inspirations it’s hard to pin down the main juice running the bus. Spalding sings like a little nymph circling your noggin’ with a handful of pixie dust. It was written to cheer up a friend, celebrates platonic love, and Spalding's belief that "the love between friends is just as important as romantic love." It’s so effortless and soothing you might be tempted to hitch-a-ride on a cloud.
Spalding heralds our royalty on ‘Crowned & Kissed.’ Coupled with a marching, going forward beat the tune is about us at our best, when we do the honorable. The singer even references King Arthur and the tune, like the ones before it, sounds like a hit.
‘Land of the Free’ is about the famous Cornelius Dupree Jr. murder case. The poor chap was falsely accused of murder and convicted on bogus evidence. Amazingly, the first judge wouldn’t admit DNA evidence into the case. Dupree was finally set free after serving 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s a short meloncholy tune that ends abruptly with the sound of a jail cell door closing.
The first single from the album, ‘Black Gold’ serves as an anthem for the African American heritage and like most anthems the title is repeated way too many times. Spalding says, "So much of our strength is drawn from resistance and endurance," she explains, "but black pride didn't just start with the slave trade. I wanted to address our nobility, going back to our incredible ancestors in pre-colonial Africa. I remember meetings when I was in elementary school about being strong as young black women, and I don't think the boys had those meetings. This song is meant to speak to those young men, and I imagined it might one day be something that a parent could sing to his or her son."
Spalding produced ‘Radio Music Society,’ she also wrote or co-wrote all but two songs on the album. It’s a tall task considering how brilliant this project is. Even though the album borrows old inspirations from many artists going back 50+ years it doesn’t drip that derivative flavor of an artist like Lady Gaga, who doesn’t seem to have an original bone in her body.
The Stevie Wonder/Susaye Greene-Brown penned ‘I Can’t Help It’ is deliciously reworked by the singer. Saxman Joe Lovano told her, “Boy, when you do a classic, you can’t just do it the way it’s been done. You have to find your own reason for doing it.” Again the arrangements are top shelf and fresh.
The twelve piece American Music Program backs up Spalding on one of the more traditional Jazz tunes on the CD, ‘Hold on Me,’ it’s packing a huge sound and the singer shows a little more vocal range.
The album is not perfect and around 80% mark the tunes get a bit weaker and more self indulgent – maybe a bit less commercial but this ride is fine. It’s still one of the most ambitious albums to come from a female singer in any genre in the last few years. Though Spalding sings, arranges, produces and plays bass like it’s an easy task for her we all know better – building this beast didn’t come without the grandest of visions.In the United States, Radio Music Society became Spalding's first Top 10 album. It debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 chart. – by John Beaudin