Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Veronica Grandison is a Detroit based music journalist and blogger. She writes the music blog Roots Rhythm and Rhyme. She's a big Esperanza Spalding fan. In early May, Veronica sent me Radio Music Society, which I got around to playing Sunday.

Dear Roni,
Sunday, I finally played Esperanza’s album Radio Music Society. You sent it to me last month, remember? Honestly, I wasn’t in a rush to play it. I have mixed feelings about her.

Back in 2006, when she hit the jazz scene, I didn’t understand all the hype. Heads Up Records must've believed they'd found the next Norah Jones. And if they marketed Esperanza right, she'd sell millions like Jones has. There's nothing wrong with having lofty ambitions. Anyway, I hated Esperanza’s self-titled album, but I enjoyed Chamber Music Society.

Esperanza was all over the map as if she couldn't decide what type of musician she wanted to be, but my feelings about her changed some after I read Alec Wilkinson’s profile of her in the New Yorker.

Growing up, Esperanza was exposed to classical, folk, the blues, rock-n-roll, R&B, jazz, and chamber music. As a professional musician, she used those influences.(I suspect, at some point, she’ll make a classical, a R&B and a blues album. I’m waiting for her to make an acoustic jazz album.)

I questioned if Esperanza deserved the 2010 Grammy for new artist. She had three albums out, and was already a household name. My definition of a new artist must be different than the Grammy committees’.

Roni, Radio Music Society is hot. There’s not one bad cut. Guest stars abound Jack DeJohnette, Lalah Hathaway, Lionel Louske, and Joe Lovano. Esperanza didn't micro-manage them. Her  soft voice and musicianship carried the album.

Hold On Me and I Can’t Help It are my favorites. Esperanza and Lovano turned Stevie Wonder’s song into a jazz ballad. Roni, I have to admit, Esperanza deserves credit for being an individual. Unlike so many other jazz singers, she’s not just singing standards. Roni, thanks for sending me Radio Music Society.


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