Jazz Profiles: Esperanza Spalding

This past Sunday WKCR’s listeners had the pleasure of hearing me play Esperanza Spalding’s whole discography. I’d known Spalding primarily for Junjo and her more classic bass work. Little did I know that in more recent years Spalding has been totally re-defining herself and the jazz album. She took the bass prodigy label and threw it out the window with albums that include spoken word poetry, complex vocal styles, and electronic beats. And I’ve heard her next album is a full length opera on which she plays zero bass.

I suppose it makes sense that someone who taught herself violin at 5, was one of the youngest professors at Berklee at 20, and performed for the President before 30 would feel pressure to break out. Spalding has always tried to throw off the “prodigy” label, claiming the title has more to do with her gender and choice of instrument than anything else. Now she’s using more pop and R&B vocal work to break out from constraints put on her musically.

We started off the show with Junjo which showcases Spalding’s uniquely optimistic bass work. Next we heard her self titled album which was likely my favorite. Esperanza is jubilant and free while still showing Spalding’s capabilities on the bass. On the album she sings in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and the vocals are undoubtedly one of the best parts of the record.

So many wonderful people called in to the station to express their joy that we were profiling the lovely Esperanza Spalding. Many, like me, had primarily known her as a straight ahead jazz bassist and were happy to hear her more pop and R&B side.

Take a listen to some of the tracks I enjoyed most below and don’t forget to TUNE IN TO WKCR FM NY ALL THE TIME FOR THE BEST JAZZ PROGRAMMING AROUND!

My shows specifically are: New music from 1-5am every other Monday night/Tuesday morning and JAZZ from 5-8:20am every other Wednesday morning. All EST.

Bass is so important wow.

Hexual Ceiling

The first few tracks released from singer-songwriter Caroline Getz and band members Grant Hiura (keys) and Nate Charnas (bass) are absolutely stunning. Filled with soul and jazz-y love, each track is warm with the timbre of Getz’s voice and complemented beautifully by virtuosic and interesting keyboard work from Hiura and cool bass lines from Charnas.

“Winter is Warm,” “Own Desires,” and “Eliana” showcase different singing styles from Getz, and each track feels distinct from the other while all being equally beautiful (although “Own Desires” may be my personal favorite off the ep). “Still of Night” artfully closes the ep with slow drawn out notes and emotional high notes sung by Getz. Subtle and beautiful accompaniment from Hiura and Charnas lets the vocals shine through.

Hexual Ceiling performed not too long ago at a NODAPL / ACLU benefit show Rare Candy organized. Live, Getz’s vocal performance was extremely impressive and no less virtuosic than on the recordings, and Hiura’s masterful work on the keys was even more apparent. Hexual Ceiling was magnetic and the whole crowd was drawn in close by the warm music and Getz’s friendly presence.