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Esperanza Spalding, 'Formwela 10'

Esperanza Spalding — the vocalist, bassist and composer hailed by NPR Music, with just a touch of hyperbole, as The 21st Century's Jazz Genius — believes a song can be a salve, in an almost literal sense. Her forthcoming album Songwrights Apothecary Lab (due out on Sept. 24) comes out of a project she conceived with a self-made community of musicians, music therapists, cognitive scientists, ethnomusicologists and healers. She calls the songs on this album "formwelas," imbuing each with magical properties. "Formwela 10," out today, is one of her more enchanting spells: a shape-shifting chamber invention that ponders the question of what we ask of one another (or take, without asking) in the course of romantic exchange. "I didn't know / How deep some feelings can go," she sings. "And you can really do some damage down there / In the soul of another." It's a gentle self-admonishment, more wistful than withering, with a clear investment in the possibility of positive change.

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