Mark it down. I rarely use the word beautiful; I find disdain in its overuse.
However, there aren’t that many other words that accurately describe my exposure to Ms. Esperanza Spalding, the 23 year old soulful, string strumming genius from Portland, Oregon. Beautiful not for her heavenly face or her porcelain skin, but more so for the sensations that purity of delivery and her phenomenal stage presence brought about in me.
Too cool, she floated across the stage and assumed her position; my curiosity was stoked as she cued the band. Like a singular breeze moving through a still room, she oozed….…….under the beaming lights, never missing a stroke, her tiny hands roaming over that beast of an instrument, effortlessly rendering me breathless and borderline smitten as she hypnotized her audience.
Her glam was infinitely fantastic as she lead the band with dreamy articulation and a masterful finesse, coaxing deep resonance and soul throbbing strands from her counterpart, merging sound and color with time and space.
Spalding, born of African-American, Welsh and Spanish descent, is able to sing in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English. When asked why she chose the bass as her signature sound, she insists that the choice wasn’t hers, but that the bass “had its own arc” and resonated with her. For her, discovering the bass was like “waking up one day and realizing you’re in love with a co-worker.”
With a firm desire to be judged for her skills and showmanship rather than her sex appeal, she is an advocate of female musicians exerting care to avoid over sexualizing themselves. Not wanting to limit herself, she chooses not to be categorized as simply a jazz artist, preferring to keep her options open on future collaborations, thereby maintaining an avenue to reach the masses that may not be as familiar with jazz.
In 2005, Spalding was hired by Berklee College of Music, becoming one of the youngest professors in the institution’s history. Her method: help students manifest their growth through a practice journal, allowing them to recognize their strengths and what elements they need to pursue. As of 2008, she was in the process of developing a course that focuses “on transcribing as a tool for learning harmony and theory”.