VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases
20 MAR 12 JONATHAN WIDRAN
I had the privilege of being in attendance at the 2011 Grammys when Esperanza Spalding -- who touts her new Heads Up set Radio Music Society as a "companion release" to her 2010 #1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Album Chamber Music Society -- pulled off the jazz coup of a lifetime. When she beat teen idol Justin Bieber for the coveted Best New Artist Grammy, she not only became the only jazz artist in history to receive that award, but also stunned pop music fans of all ages who thought "The Bieb" was a shoo-in.
Not surprisingly, the versatile singer/bassist's star has only risen since then-capped off with her beautiful vocal performance of "What A Wonderful World" during the "In Memoriam" segment of the recent Academy Awards. Open minded pop fans will love the way Spalding weaves a shimmering, grooving hybrid of pop, soul and jazz on this eclectic and ambitious 12-track set.
From the dreamy, horn and vocal harmony-laced "Radio Song" to the wistful and lightly funky "City of Roses" -- a celebration of her native Portland, Oregon that she was commissioned to write by Banana Republic -- Radio Music Society transcends genre trappings with a crew that includes Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart, Lalah Hathaway, Leni Stern and even hip-hop giant Q-Tip.
In line with the musical ambition, 11 songs are accompanied by conceptual short films, which further express Spalding's inspiration and story behind each track. These were shot in NYC, Barcelona and Portland. The videos will be available to those who purchase Radio Music Society as a digital download and as part of an exclusive CD/DVD package on the physical release.