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Esperanza Spalding performs hopeful jazz music

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | DECEMBER 09, 2010 7:10 AM

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Esperanza Spalding is a triple threat — in more than one way. The artist is a bass player, singer, and composer. But there’s more to this jazz artist than a phenomenal résumé; she can also sing in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

She will perform her flair and style at 7:30 p.m. today in the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is ranges from $10 to $29. The performance is sponsored by Hancher.

“Esperanza Spalding is one of the most interesting and compelling musicians in jazz today,” said Hancher Programming Director Jacob Yarrow. “I particularly like the way she combines virtuosic bass playing with beautiful vocals.”

Spalding’s first name, Esperanza, is the Spanish word for hope — something she has in common with her music. Though she came from a troubled childhood, she first wanted to play music when she was 4 years old watching cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on an episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

She began to teach herself how to play the violin, then became a part of the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, which she was a member of for 10 years.

The musician then was promoted to the concertmaster position, where she discovered the bass and ultimately realized that classical music was not what she was interested in.

After teaching at Berklee College of Music and working with some prestigious artists, Spalding embarked on a solo career in 2008.

During that year, her début record, Esperanza, was the best selling album for a new jazz artist.

“I love that [Spalding] as an artist remains true to her creative genius and her own style — musically, fashionably, and personally. She doesn’t get lost in the hype, and that’s really admirable,” said Kelly Johanns-DiCillo of Concord Music Group. “Her music is beautiful, brilliant, and completely out of the box. It’s not stuffed into a specific genre or style, and that makes each song a treat.”

Spalding’s first album was on the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart for 70 weeks. This gained her a ton of fame, and she was booked on the “Late Show with David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and she was featured in the article “Women on the Rise” in O, the Oprah Magazine.

This year, she released her second album, Chamber Music Society, which was inspired by her classical training when she was younger.

“[The album] is unique and offers a wide variety of colors for the evening, which include accomplished musicians playing piano, bass drums, percussion, backing vocals, violin, viola, and cello,” Yarrow said. “I’m particularly excited to hear the drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, who has played with many jazz masters, and Argentine pianist Leonardo Genovese.”

Not only is Spalding’s album successful, Yarrow said, she is also rocketing to stardom.

The artist recently received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, along with Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence + the Machine, and Mumford & Sons.

“This shows the rare instance when a jazz artist is recognized as part of mainstream pop culture, and we are thrilled to present her at this moment,” Yarrow said.


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