Artists to look out for: Esperanza Spalding

2011-03-25 16:31

“She is probably one of the best things that has happened to

music in general. She crosses so many barriers”, said veteran singer Dee Dee

Bridgewater after she listened to a tune from Esperanza Spalding’s latest

recording in a Downbeat blindfold test. Bridgewater’s observation is no exaggeration.

Indeed Spalding, is a rising star. Her bass-playing transfixes audiences and

her multilingual singing hypnotises listeners; qualities that led President

Barack Obama to invite Spalding to perform for him at the Nobel Peace Prize

ceremony in Oslo in 2009.

Spalding’s meteoric rise has seen her take one award after the other. Her

latest recording which weaves chamber music and jazz improvisation is receiving

rave reviews. Released in August 2010, Chamber Music Society won the

singer/bassist a Grammy nomination. In addition to collection of awards,

Spalding who hails from Portland in the state of Oregon plays now in jazz’s big

league. Thanks to her straight-ahead credentials, musical agility and solid

chops. The musician who is never at a loss for words is a member of Joe

Lovano’s new band, Us Five. She, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and drummer

Francisco Mela were the rhythm section that accompanied McCoy Tynes at the

CareFusion New York Jazz Festival in June last year. Before the festival, the

quartet performed together at Yoshi’s in Oakland in December 2009. In line with

her modesty, Spalding believes that she is fortunate and that her success is a

product of cosmic forces or accidents of history. But listening closely to her

play and sing, one can only conclude: the 26-year old bassist/singer has


– ESP Afrika

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