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Esperanza Spalding: Radio Music Society 

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Proving her 2011 Best New Artist Grammy win over Justin Bieber was no fluke, jazz singer/bassist Esperanza Spalding delivers a wistful, winsome affair as light and smart as summer champagne. More vet than newbie, Spalding's fourth outing is her most accessible, and yet her original compositions, groovy accents, and open arrangements maintain a floating, ethereal quality that flirts with the avant-garde without ever losing cohesion. There are commercial concessions like the Michael Jackson cover and strategic guest features by Lalah Hathaway and Algebra. These conventions almost succeed more in distracting attention away from an artist who needs no creative assistance in selling her refreshing originality. Small in vocal power, Spalding manages sinewy stretches to surprising heights ("Vague Suspicions"). Inspirational lyrics compete with the political on "Black Gold," but it's the totally unexpected love ballads such as "Cinnamon Tree" that truly move. (4 out of 5 stars)

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