JazzTimes 10: Jazz Albums with Strings

When we play them, we hear the sound of violins

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.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.