Esperanza Spalding – Radio Music Society

January 01, 1970

(Heads Up)


Bassist/singer/composer Esperanza Spalding may be
categorized under jazz, but she’s
clearly not comfortable being labeled. After the unabashed eclecticism of
2010’s Chamber Music Society,
however, she’s narrowed her focus on the follow-up. Radio Music Society concentrates solely on vocal tunes with
accessible melodies, blatantly indulging in her soul/R&B tendencies. At
first spin, it might sound like Spalding is just aping Corinne Bailey Rae,
whose own soul records are shot through with jazz inflections. But if this is
Spalding’s version of a Rae record, it’s a really good Rae record.


Spalding announces her intention with the first track –
“Radio Song” celebrates the good feelings brought on by hearing a great tune
coming out of the speakers. She’s not abandoned jazz, mind you – given her airy
singing style and inherently swinging grooves, which would be impossible. Jazz
is still at the heart of the music here, especially in the second half, which
is populated with the funky “Endangered Species” (which began life as a
vocalese tune), the densely expansive “Vague Suspicions” and the lovely
traditionalist “Hold On Me.” But most of the record finds organic urban
grooves, frosts them with sweet pop-soul hooks and serves them up hot and
fluffy – “Black Gold,” “I Can’t Help It” and “Crowned & Kissed” are the
kind of R&B tunes you wish really did rule the radio. Radio Music Society is no sell-out move – it’s just a logical
expansion of one facet of Spalding’s glittering diamond of talent.


Gold,” “Crowned & Kissed,” “Hold On Me” MICHAEL TOLAND

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