It has not taken Esperanza Spalding long to emerge as one of the brightest lights in the musical world. Listeners familiar with her stunning 2008 Heads Up International debut, Esperanza, and her best-selling 2010 release Chamber Music Society, were well aware that the young bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland, Oregon was the real deal, with a unique and style-spanning presence, deeply rooted in jazz yet destined to make her mark far beyond the jazz realm. That judgment was confirmed on February 13, 2011, when Spalding became the first jazz musician to receive the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist. On 20th March, 2012, Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, gives us Spalding's latest release, Radio Music Society, her most diverse, ambitious and masterful recital yet. “Radio Song,” the new disc’s opening track, both sets the tone and confirms the aptness of Spalding’s “radio music” metaphor. “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 music is realized by many of the brilliant musicians who are part of Spalding’s ever-expanding universe. In addition to longtime partners Lovano, keyboard player Leo Genovese and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, the ranks contain jazz legends Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart; guitar heroes Jef Lee Johnson and Lionel Loueke; an array of master vocalists including Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway, Gretchen Parlato, Leni Stern and Becca Stevens; hip-hop giant Q-Tip (who performs on and co-produced two tracks); and two Portland-based musicians, Janice Scroggins and Dr. Thara Memory, who provided essential mentorship in Spalding’s youth. Four tracks feature the horn section of the American Music Program, a youth big band of musicians age 12 to 18 directed by her longtime mentor and teacher Dr. Memory, who conducts and provides horn arrangements; while the soulful pianist on “Hold on Me” is Ms. Scroggins, who Spalding studied with as a child. “Both of them are phenomenal artists who aren’t well known outside of the Northwest,” Spalding emphasizes. “Janice Scroggins was, quite honestly, too deep for me when I was eight years old. She unifies completely the sounds of gospel, blues and jazz, our American roots music. And Dr. Thara Memory, the teacher I came up through, has dedicated his life to spreading the message of this music. I had to have his youth band on the record, because they’re part of my Music Society, too.”

Among its many strengths, Radio Music Society is a celebration of the men and women who have helped cultivate Spalding’s talent, as well as those who have nurtured her vision and inspired her along the way. “I’ve had the honor and blessing of working with so many phenomenal jazz musicians over the years,” she says. “As I’ve gotten to know them and their music, I’ve grown to love them as family and colleagues. I wished for an opportunity for us all to interpret songs together, so that they can be heard and received by a larger audience. All my personal heroes who are revered in the jazz world – like Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington – should be heard by a mainstream audience, because what they manifest in their music is so beautiful, sincere and uplifting. I think they literally bring good into the lives of the people who hear them. So I’ve tried to put together a program of music that speaks to the non-jazz listener, but can still provide a viable foundation for my jazz heroes to express themselves. Hopefully, people can enjoy all the elements of my music without being told which genres it is ‘supposedly’ a blend of. Everyone is invited to listen with no pre-conceived notions. It’s a journey. Think and feel for yourself. But, most importantly, ENJOY!”

 

 

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