By Adhir Ghosh
This week, Little Black Book, Delhi & Global Music Institute bring you recommendations by Adhir Ghosh. This Delhi-based guitarist has been drawn to the sounds and music of Esperanza Spalding, and he’s sharing his thoughts about some of the fantastic work done by the Grammy Award winning artist. Tune in…
Someone whose work I am increasingly fascinated and enchanted by is the American bass player and vocalist Esperanza Spalding. My recommendation features two videos; a short film called “Chamber Music Society: Impressions on Making the Album” and the “NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert: Esperanza Spalding” which is a short performance of some of her songs from the Chamber Music Society album.
Spalding’s work entails four studio albums, one of which won a Grammy for Best New Artist, and, to quote a cliché, is extremely hard to categorize under one specific “genre” – in the more conventional understanding of the term. This is because even though her music is primarily under the larger ambit of jazz and improvised music, it is nuanced by a myriad of influences that range from funk, soul, R&B, classical music and jazz that make her undeniably contemporary. Her work pays tribute to many styles of music that she grew up on and is inspired by, but manages to internalize those influences into a music of her own. Of her albums, I’d like to focus on her third studio album, entitled Chamber Music Society.
“The most beautiful things emerge from chaos. I don’t even know what that word ‘chaos’ means… as opposed to what? Order? Where is there order, anywhere?” Esperanza Spalding
Chamber Music Society is an intimate and intricate album, and possibly her most dense work in my opinion. This is not easy-listening, though the willing listener can be taken through a range of emotions and musical landscapes through the album. This being said, one should not be intimidated by this idea of complexity as one of the defining strains of the work is the communal nature of chamber music itself, which was popular and entertaining music of its time. Drawing on these conflicting ideas, the film on Chamber Music Society articulates some of the intricacies of the album quite well, and gives an insight into the vibrant and positively infectious personality of the composer. She speaks fondly of people that she has collaborated with her on the album – most of whom are musical giants in their own stead – and seems to “create a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements.” This is an engagement with the tradition of chamber music that remains rooted in a contemporary setting. It is a subtle acknowledgement of the past, explored through jazz and improvised music.
I felt that the Tiny Desk Concert would be an interesting supplement to the film, as it displays this intimacy that she speak of in performance. Here is Esperanza playing with a small group of musicians, amongst friends. The viewer cannot help but be a part of this quiet and personal setting where the performer is not on any kind of distanced platform or stage, but rather present with a renewed sense of genuinely and honesty.
Listen, and enjoy!
Chamber Music Society | Impressions on Making the Album
NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert | Esperanza Spalding
About the Author | Adhir is a Delhi-based guitar player who has been a permanent fixture with funk/rock band Five8, and has also done sessions for Artistes Unlimited, The Yellow Brick Project, Adil and Vasundhara, and Zeb and Haniya. He teaches guitar and music theory at Global Music Institute. Apart from his guitar playing, Adhir likes to watch films and recently completed an MA in film studies at JNU.