Posted: December 17th, 2010 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: Christian Scott, Jazz, Matt Stevens | 1 Comment »
‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ came out earlier this year to much anticipation and fanfare around the world. Christian Scott, the Grammy-nominated boy wonder who took the jazz community by storm with his 2006 album ‘Rewind That’, this year came out with his 4th album in five years.
Scott, since the last time I wrote about him, has been hard at work creating new music and gaining priceless experience touring. Scott’s last album, a live recording of his concert at the 2008 Newport Jazz Festival, was solid and provides a more raw experience of his work and sound. But I feel this year’s ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ is the rightful continuation of Christian Scott’s journey last visited in 2007’s Anthem.
Seven of the ten tracks on this album have titles that try to elicit sharp commentaries about hotly debated issues in American politics and society. Songs like “The Roe Effect”, “American’t”, “Jencide”, and “Angola, LA & The 13th Amendment” are examples of this. While the album ‘Anthem’ was fiercely angry, crying out in anguish and pain, ‘Yesterday You Said Tomorrow’ has internalized this grief much more. You can clearly feel that the same feelings of frustration are present in this new album, but they are now coming from a much deeper place, and have shifted Scott’s music to be more muted, more reserved, more pensive. But I feel this album has even more energy than ‘Anthem’ if that is all possible. I think what I am hearing is evermore maturity coming from Christian’s horn.
The music, as it has since Scott’s first album, signifies another step forward in the sound of contemporary Jazz. He takes every opportunity to display his “Whisper Technique”, a distinct breathy, airy, hazy effect on his sound. Scott is said to have perfected this technique over the past couple of years, and found his breakthrough when trying to mimic the sound of his horn to the sound of his mother’s voice. The “Whisper Technique” is also accentuated by Scott’s custom-designed, custom-made trumpet, nicknamed “Katrina”. To elevate this whispering sound, Scott’s music is dark, deep, and moody, the perfect atmosphere to envelope an eerie, whispering lyric.
Christian Scott’s music is rich in deep, tonal hues. It is, admittedly, very impressionistic of Miles Davis’ earlier era, though with very contemporary arches. One of these contemporary pillars is Matt Stevens’ guitar work. Having been with Scott since the beginning, these two have matured their sound together, and have almost become two halves of a whole. Pay attention to Matt on each of the tracks he plays on.
My favourite songs on this album are: American’t, Isadora, and most of all, The Eraser. There is an edginess to these songs that is so deliciously subtle. The songs move forward at a hypnotic pace, and I often find myself swaying back and forth or nodding relentlessly to the onslaught of their tight tempo. These songs make my forehead frown in concentration. I am exhilarated.
Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: Christian Scott, Esperanza Spalding, genre, iTunes, Jazz, Montreal International Jazz Festival, new jazz fusion, The Bad Plus | 4 Comments »
Day 3 of my jazz week, and I get a second chance at seeing Esperanza Spalding here in Montreal, at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
This time, without a thunderstorm overhead, I am able to fully engage and immerse myself in the music and experience that is, Esperanza.
Esperanza played a balanced mix of songs from her previous two albums and many new songs we can expect will likely show up on her upcoming album (which is supposed to be a hommage to Nina Simone). I had a smile on my face the entire performance. I couldn’t wipe it off even if I tried. I was head-boppin’, foot-stompin’ all the way through.
A few thought-provoking ideas went through my head as I was enjoying the concert:
1) You’re only as good as the musicans you play with:
Esperanza played with a stellar, yet young group including Otis Brown (bass), Ricardo Roach (guitar), Geonese (?) (piano). Keep an eye out for any and all of these musicians, as I am very sure they will all lead very successful and distinguished careers as the leaders of their own jazz groups. With the type of music that Esperanza and many of the younger groups are playing, they require each musician in the group to be fully adaptable and possess many different musical specialties.
2) A glimpse into the New Contemp Jazz direction:
Esperanza is not the only artist playing multiple styles fusion. But different from the type of fusion Miles Davis pioneered (Fusion with instrument, sounds and a heavy influence from the then fresh avant garde/free jazz movement) The new fusion is about fusing different styles of popular music genres into Jazz: Rock-Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Trip hop-Jazz, R&B-Jazz, Hip Hop-Jazz. The contemporary jazz musician like Esperanza (an like Christian Scott or The Bad Plus) are arranging each song as it should be arranged, whether it is a Jazz rhythm line supporting a pop song, or a jazz song in a the context of rock.
2a) Successful players must be masters at a multiple number of different genres:
What this means for all contemporary musicians and those up & coming, is that if these advancing artists are constructing this paradigm, all subsequent jazz musicians will need to master not only jazz, but a number of other genres as well. We will see not only specialists in one instrument or style in Jazz, we will see more musicians who will be specialists in multiple genres to master New Jazz Fusion.
2b) Each song is a different kind of fusion:
No longer will a full album be made to reinforce one jazz genre. As we saw in Esperanza’s second album which had three distinct types of fusion equally represented throughout the album, we’re going to see more musicians have consecutive songs distinctly different from one another. It may alienate some listeners, especially those that only like one kind of style/genre/fusion.
But this type of each-song-stands-on-its-own album fits into the iTunes-style of music selling: Now that music listeners & buyers are purchasing each song at a time, and less and less purchasing whole albums, it allows a listener to choose the type of fusions that are most appealing to them from that one particular artist.
Esperanza’s first album set a foundation that established her firmly as a young-rising talented artist in the jazz arena. Album two threw together a few different styles Esperanza could do to show her verasity. It also helped the record label learn more about which styles are most commercially viable. Now with sneak peeks at some new songs, we have an idea where her next album is going: further into fusion: soul, rock, world-music into jazz.
Esperanza’s show illicited continuous standing ovations from the audience, resulting in two encores.
In the subsequent days after Esperanza’s performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, I saw and read a number of very strong and positive reviews from her performance. But I think the clearest indicator of how successful her performance at the jazz fest was the fact that all of her cds were sold out in every single music store I could find (and I went to all of the stores, my friend wanted to buy the album but we couldn’t find it anywhere).
Bravo to Esperanza Spalding! The highlight of my few days at this year’s Montreal International Jazz Fest.
Posted: December 14th, 2008 | Author: Kevin Lee | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: Alicia Keys, Bass, Berklee, Blues, Bossa Nova, Brian McKnight, Chet Baker, Christian Scott, contemporary jazz, Esperanza Spalding, Funk, Jazz, Joe Lovano, Latin Jazz, Neo Soul, Nu Jazz, R&B, Soul, Spanish, Stevie Wonder | 4 Comments »
I twittered a couple weeks ago that I had a newfound obsession. And that obsession’s name is Esperanza Spalding. I’m not kidding. I’m obsessed. She is my most exciting musical find of the year.
Esperanza Spalding has come out with her second album in late 2008, self-titled Esperanza on Heads Up records (her first album was titled Junjo, released only in the US in 2006). This Berklee-educated, child musical prodigy, first came on my radar through her association with Emmy-nominated Christian Scott, my 2007 find-of-the-year. I didn’t actively get a chance to explore her sound until this year, but when the very first notes of this latest album touched my ears, I knew I was hooked.
Esperanza Spalding is like the Alicia Keys of the jazz world, but in saying that I might even be discrediting Esperanza a little. Her mixed heritage is extremely evident in her music. Each of her songs draw, in varying degrees, influence from Spanish-Salsa, Blues, Flamenco, R&B, Funk, Bossa Nova, Soul and Jazz. It makes for an intoxicating combination leaving you wanting a few more notes from the last song while simultaneously excited about what the next song will bring.
Esperanza plays double bass and sings lead vocals, which in my opinion is the perfect combination (there is nothing sexier than a hot girl playing funky bass-lines and singing sweet and tantalizing lyrics on top). She sings in interchangeably fluent English and Spanish, and shows the diversity of her bass skills from song to song. Cuerpo Y Alma (the Spanish version of Body and Soul) is Esperanza’s only real jazz standard in this album and is a fantastic entry-point for many mainstream jazz listeners. This and each successive song succinctly shows the breadth of her skills, from her silky vocals, to the mastery of the bass and scatting, to the ‘sounds simple’ but surprisingly complex syncopation.
In addition to Cuerpo Y Alma, I Adore You, Samba Empreludia and Ponta De Areia are all fantastic modern creations fully rooted in the Latin heritage. Anyone into Bossa Nova and interested in hearing the latest iterations of Latin Jazz must pay attention here. Because of these songs, I’ve fallen in love all over again with the magic that is Latin Jazz.
If That’s True, Mela, She Got To You and Love In Time, are delivered as fully-formed, hard-hitting contemporary jazz pieces; no doubt a product of her experiences at Berklee and touring with Joe Lovano. It is in these songs that you can take your time to explore Esperanza’s work on the bass. It is an immense pleasure to hear a maturing bassist, one that consciously considers the double bass as a leading instrument. I think as she continues to produce more songs, we’ll have a chance to hear the bass take more of center stage.
The songs on this album that most excite me are Precious, Fall In, Espera and I Know You Know. Maybe its because I grew up in a predominantly R&B, Funk and Soul environment, but these songs draw off-of and play derivative-to this realm of music. What Esperanza does in these songs I can only describe as exciting, mesmerizing and just cool. I’m a little afraid because if she pushes these types of songs too much, she’ll very quickly build a fan-base that only demands this kind of Nu-Jazz/Neo-Soul. She too easily can own this style of music. I say I’m afraid because I enjoy her other styles too much to see her pay less attention in developing her other styles. Songs like Precious and I Know You Know are so tantalizingly that I can see them entering the top mainstream R&B charts. There is no denying that the way she wraps up jazz in Blues chords and Soul phrasing gets under my skin.
I cannot even begin to comment about her voice. Love it. Love it. She’s already a star as a vocalist, but to be a master bassist as well puts her into the ranks of Brian McKnight, Chet Baker or Stevie Wonder, where you can’t decide whether you like their voice or their instrumental playing better.
Needless to say, I’m hooked. I’m not only a convert; I’m now and forevermore an evangelist for Esperanza Spalding. I wait anxiously for her next release, but until that time comes I’ll be playing Esperanza over and over and over…