9. Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (Heads Up, 2010)
Say what you will about bassist Esperanza Spalding: She never does the same thing twice. The strings on Chamber Music Society comprise only a single violin, viola, and cello. Unlike the others on this list, however, those instruments are full partners in Spalding’s ensemble. They even form the front line much of the time, often joined by Spalding’s wordless vocals. (Indeed, on “As a Sprout” they form the entire performing group.) The leader’s upright bass often completes the “string quartet,” so to speak, and she shows a remarkable ability to play off them (as on “What a Friend”), and vice versa. Chamber Music Society’s fusion of progressive straight-ahead jazz and contemporary chamber music is unique: a startlingly original vision that has yet to see its like.