July 12, 2024

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The healing power of the universe: Esperanza Spalding: Video, Photos

The new website of the bassist Esperanza Spalding is called songwriting pharmacy laboratory (songwrightsapothecarylab.com). There she offers the first three songs of her new project like therapy lessons. You can even buy them in a set with ceramic utensils.
Whereby you should put away your aversion to esotericism and mindfulness refrain for a moment. Finally, Spalding continues a tradition. The phrase “Music is the healing power of the universe” comes from one of the most radical radicals in the history of jazz – Albert Ayler, who gave his last studio album that title. That was in 1969, the year after the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The year the FBI hunted down civil rights activists. Esperanza Spalding sounds completely different after the Black Lives Matter and Epidemic Year 2020. Because then as now, the spirituality in jazz is not a luxury bored search for meaning, but a deep exploration in the momentum of catharsis.
Musically, she ties in with Alice Coltrane. After the death of her husband John, she created an opus from a dozen albums that transformed the rabid acts of liberation into cosmic upsurges. Similar to Pharoah Sanders and Floating Points with their recently released surprise hit “Promises”, Spalding produces less “sheets of sounds” than veils of sound that are held together by harmonies and not by rhythms. And because she does so over long periods with her radiant voice, with a choir and together with people like hip-hop producer Phoelix, drummer Justin Tyson and saxophone titan Wayne Shorter, there is a pull that is something like has universal validity.
Alice Coltrane is currently experiencing a renaissance in the wake of the new spiritual jazz. Not least because there are youngsters on their second instrument, the harp, which remains one of the most difficult instruments in jazz. Except for Coltrane’s cosmic glissandi and Dorothy Ashby’s groove plucking, there hasn’t been much since the late 1960s. What makes the English harpist Amanda Whiting so interesting, who appeared last year as a surprisingly brilliant sparring partner of the saxophonist and flautist Chip Wickham on his album “Blue and Red”. On her first full album for a real label “After Dark” (Jazzman) she finds ways in the trio (with a few guest contributions from Wickham on the flute) to ground her notoriously ethereal instrument in jazz grooves.
The New York harpist Brandee Younger is a little further musically and also with her career. She played a lot with Alice and John Coltrane’s son Ravi and works in the studio for pop stars and rappers. And on their new, meanwhile seventh album “Force Majeure” (International Anthem) dares to form a pure duo with bassist Dezron Douglas. This works so well precisely because the harp and double bass complement each other wonderfully in terms of sound. The album was created from the two pandemic streams and seems similarly spontaneous. They mostly play cover versions. From Pharoah Sanders, John and Alice Coltrane, the Stylistics, Kate Bush and Sting. Everything is very hip in its minimalism and the completely unironic preoccupation with songs that have more than proven themselves.
Esperanza Spalding Is The 21st Century's Jazz Genius : NPR
The preoccupation with composing is almost a new thread. For example, Jihye Lee is releasing her second orchestral album as a composer with “Daring Mind” (Pias). In her native South Korea, she already had a career as an indie singer before moving to Boston ten years ago to study jazz composition at the Berklee School. Shortly afterwards she received the Duke Ellington Award. Why it is so celebrated becomes clear on the album. It exhausts the body of the big band with all means of modern jazz, without incurring any favors. The way brass and woodwinds, piano and rhythm are intertwined is so coherent that it takes a long time to notice how little room is left for improvisation.
With a whole column full of euphoria, one should not forget that jazz can still be an outlet for anger and despair. The clarinetist and singer Angel Bat Dawid makes no secret of her political stance. The song titles speak for themselves: “What shall I tell my children who are black”, “We hereby declare the African look”, “HELL”. What was embedded in clear grooves and sound images on their album “Oracle” is broken on their new album “Live” (International Anthem) with a force that leaves no comfort zones free. Recorded at the Jazzfest Berlin 2019 with her band Tha Brotherhood, it is proof that free jazz can not only abstract emotions, but also intensify them in a raw way, as we would otherwise know from soul or punk.
Esperanza Spalding - "12 Little Spells"
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