Cover of Esperanza SpaldingEsperanza Spalding gets best new artist Grammy - chicagotribune.com
Sometimes, even the Grammys get it right.
In choosing bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding as best new artist, the Grammys not only miffed Justin Bieber fans but anointed a jazz musician of tremendous versatility and potential. Moreover, at 26, Spalding commands the rare ability to woo pop listeners and hard-core jazz aficionados, alike.
She proved the point last December, when she attracted a capacity audience to Symphony Center on a double-bill with violinist Regina Carter. But Spalding was the artist everyone was buzzing about, even before she sounded a note.
Throughout a mesmerizing performance, Spalding proved she's much more than just a bassist-vocalist. Music seemed to pour out of every corpuscle of her being, and she gave voice to it through deeply expressive bass playing, hauntingly ethereal vocals, self-styled choreography and unabashed performance art.
When Spalding is at her best, the music surges uninterrupted from the low notes of her bass to the stratospheric pitches of her soprano. As songwriter, she pens profound narratives (listen to her "Apple Blossom"); as conceptualizer, she fearlessly merges pop, jazz and classical idioms (check out her "Chamber Music Society" CD of last year).
Yes, Spalding has some technical challenges ahead, especially in improving the evenness and control of her voice. Even so, she's now positioned to bring jazz to young, pop audiences that otherwise might never encounter it. Bravo.
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