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.

Early Mornin’ Jazzin: Daybreak Express

Hi folks, how’re things? I discussed briefly how much time on air I have this week in my last message to you. Monday night from 1-5am I played some avant garde sounds: Carl Stone, John Cage and Chainsaw Jazz. It was a good time. I started the night with a little Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd Jazz Samba to transition from the show prior to mine, Latin Jazz Hour. A lovely friend of mine spent the first few hours hanging with me, and we joyously danced (?) to Carl Stone (can you dance to Carl Stone?). After they left I got super super scared by John Cage and a litany of voices. I then got super tired. Chainsaw Jazz was a good energetic end to the night.

This morning has proved itself more enjoyable. I went to bed early and arose at 4:30am with an abundance of energy. I started listeners off with The Enchantment, an album featuring Chick Corea and Bela Fleck. It’s a truly fantastic record with interesting elements of bluegrass thanks to Fleck’s banjo and always held down by Corea’s virtuosic and uniquely energetic piano playing. My favorite track on that one is “Brazil.” (attached below).

Next, the sweet sweet soulful sounds of Ray Charles graced the airwaves. I played his album The Genius Hits the Road a wonderful little collection of classics. There’s really nothing like some Ray Charles for your heart, mind, and soul. We were still in the 5am hour, but I was dancing to “Basin Street Blues,” “New York’s My Home,” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Thank you Ray.

To get some contrast after the crackly deep tones of Ray’s voice, I put on Snarky Puppy’s album We Like It Here, a soon to be classic. They may just be the best modern jazz band from Brooklyn now, but some day Phil Schaap will be playing them. Seriously. Listening to the drums on “Lingus” now, I am literally laughing thinking about how good they are. My confidence in my choice was boosted when right after announcing the Snarky Puppy record a listener called in just to tell me what fantastic programming I’m doing this fine morning. Nice. And then another listener called deeper into the album to complement my programming as well! All these nice folks in the world. Jazz is social justice, and it has been for many many years. I hope it will bring America together in the future like it did in the past. And not through the unfair exploitation of “black gold” as Jesse Williams so eloquently put it at the BET Awards last year. His speech is extremely worth listening to; he quotes Billie Holiday.

I’m writing this while listening to the truly climactic end to We Like It Here, “Lingus.” It’s some crazy crazy shit. We’ll listen to some Joe Pass solo guitar next to cool down. All any of us really want is someone to play guitar for us like Joe Pass does (or to play guitar like Joe Pass). A whole lot of love goes into each pluck of his guitar strings. I actually don’t think I can name any guitarist who has a warmer color than Joe Pass does. His guitar sounds like a rosy luminous red but at the same time is extremely soulful and can be so damn bluuuuues-y.

Don’t forget to tune in Saturday night / Sunday morning 1-6am EST to hear me spin some more jazz on Jazz Till Dawn: 89.9FM NY and wkcr.org.

 

WKCR FM New York

Good evening. In the past I’ve mentioned that I program for WKCR FM New York, Columbia’s very own student run radio station. It’s a fantastic institution built on strong values and a desire to put “the alternative” out on the airwaves. I program for jazz, new music and maybe latin soon. This week I am actually on air for a ridiculous amount of shows.

If you desire to hear me program some sweet ambient and avant garde sounds, tune in Monday night / Tuesday morning from 1-5am EST for Transfigured night, a new music show. I’ll probably be spinning some free jazz and definitely some quiet static-y weird sounds. Maybe some Terry Riley too just to pay tribute to my hometown (I’m from San Francisco).

Maybe you’re more of a jazz cat. That’s ok, I often am one myself. If you desire to just fall back on a bed of sweet 2-5-1  chord progressions and smooooth sax tune in Wednesday morning from 5-8am EST. There’s truly no telling what kind of fabulous things are coming your way, but the forecast tells us there’s a strong chance of some Stan Getz.

There’s more! Lena! That’s crazy! I know. Tune in Saturday night (2/11) / Sunday morning from 1-6am EST to hear me on this week’s Jazz Till Dawn. Watch the sunrise with me and listen to some cool jazz.

TUNE IN: on the dial at 89.9FM New York and online.

I hope all of you get more sleep this week than I’m about to.

Spread love and jazzzzzzzz.

Your New Wednesday Morning Routine

Hi lovely people! I have some very exciting news to share with you. Starting on the 25th of this month I will be spinning sweet sweet jazz tunes for you from 5-8:20am every other Wednesday. Tune in to WKCR at 89.9FM New York or online at wkcr.org. To be clear I’ll be spinning from 5-8am EASTERN time. So to all my Californians (likely most off you reading this) I’ll be programming from 2-5:20am. Please don’t be awake at such an hour on my account, but perhaps if you find yourself sleepless and up late or awake early you can tune in. I’m really looking forward to gracing the airwaves with exciting and beautiful jazz music, and I hope you’ll tune in to witness it!