Esperanza Spalding Detours From Jazz in Spicy Chamber Music CD

Esperanza Spalding
Vocalist and bassist Esperanza Spalding at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. Her latest release, "Chamber Music Society," is a contemporary twist on the centuries-old music form with appearances by Brazilian vocalist Milton Nascimento and jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Photographer: Patrick Cole/Bloomberg

Two years ago, Esperanza Spalding made a striking impact on the music world with her genre-defying second album.

She’s done it again with her newest release, “Chamber Music Society,” which shakes up old conventions with songs that include guitar, percussion, power jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and vocals by Brazilian legend Milton Nascimento.

In its five weeks on Billboard magazine’s charts, the album ranks No. 4 this week after peaking at No. 3.

Spalding studied chamber music and listened to Beethoven’s piano sonatas when she was even younger than she is now (25).

“I wanted to show a much wider part of my identity,” Spalding said in an interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York.

“I felt I had given enough of an inviting introduction that people would sit and listen to the next subject.”

Tomorrow, she’ll bring her jazz-classical fusion experiment to New York University’s Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, part of a tour that takes her to Europe.

Her seven-piece ensemble includes drummer Carrington, pianist Leo Genovese, violinist Sara Caswell, Jody Redhage on cello, Lois Martin on viola and vocalists Leala Cyr and Gretchen Parlato.

‘Populist Jazz’

The 2008 “Esperanza” album, which straddled jazz and adult-contemporary music, made her a crossover favorite and got her on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” In May, the New Yorker magazine profiled her, calling her music “populist jazz.”

The recognition has “allowed me to play a lot and employ musicians that I really love and think should be heard,” Spalding said.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Spalding joined the Chamber Music Society of Oregon as a child and left as concertmaster at age 15 to become a working musician. She entered the Berklee College of Music about two years later.

“I wasn’t an avid classical music lover until I got to Berklee,” she said. Five years ago, she became one of the youngest professors in Berklee’s history.

Spalding now divides her time between the New York City area and Austin, Texas, which has become an incubator for new music and the host of the annual South by Southwest music, film and digital media festival.

“There’s so much to know and so much to explore, and that’s very exciting,” Spalding said. “And in that sense, I feel as though I’ve hardly begun.”

Spalding performs tomorrow at 8 p.m. at N.Y.U.’s Jack H. Skirball Center, 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South) in Manhattan. Tickets are $45 to $60. Her U.S. and European tour includes stops in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Oct. 2; Washington on Oct. 3, San Francisco on Oct. 10; Mannheim, Germany, on Oct. 22; Amsterdam on Oct. 27; Stockholm on Oct. 29; and Copenhagen on Nov. 2. Information:

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