Bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding was just 15 years old when she began her professional music career, performing at a Portland, Ore. blues club. Other early gigs included stints with area jazz septets, a trio, and the fusion group, Noise for Pretend, that released two albums on the Hush Records label.
Spalding has since collaborated with the likes of Stanley Clarke, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheney, Dave Samuels, and Regina Carter, among others. The 2005 recipient of the Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship, Esperanza also holds a B.M. from Berklee College of Music, where she now teaches as the youngest faculty member in the school’s history.
Her sophomore solo CD, Esperanza, is a showcase of Spalding’s ambitious creative spirit and enormous musical talents, dipping into samba, bop, straight-up jazz, pop, funk, latin, afro-cuban, and many other territories.
1. “You Can’t Hide Love” Earth Wind and Fire
Lyrics so simple, but potent. The arrangement is beautiful, reminiscent of Wayne Shorter’s fusion period. They are grooving their asses off.
2. “When You Dream/Aung San Suu Kyi/Fee Fi Fo Fum” Wayne Shorter
There is no way for me to choose one Wayne Shorter tune. These three are the dearest to my heart, because to me, you hear three distinct facets of this completely brilliant being.
3. “Tarde” Milton Nascimento
The version from Native Dancer. The lyrics are so haunting, and his singing is the closest I’ve ever heard a singer get to not “singing” with his/her instrument in the way.
4. “Love Poems” Bilal
He finds the mountain in his voice, and we get to scale it together. There are so many places he goes with his voice! It’s like he uses the different rooms in the house of his voice to show all of what he describes going through in a budding romance that he tries to tie into being “plutonic.” Brilliant.
5. World Clique Deee-Lite
These guys were amazing! When I was about 8 through 14 years old, I would listen to them all the time. They had a sound way ahead of their time (or we are already starting to recycle that decade!). They made me listen to what was happening in the music for the first time, because there was so much going on. It was like a fun game to try and hear everything happening in the cuts.
6. “Liberation” Andre; 3000
The lyrics in this one resonate terribly deeply within me. Also, Erykah Badu’s featured in this tune. Viva el Andre;! He is one of the most talented, creative artists of our century… I love everything he does.
7. Water No Get Enemy Fela Kuti
Raw power. Not sure what else to say. Good way to test whether you are a corpse or not. If when you hear this song, your back doesn’t turn into a water snake, feet twisting and pounding the ground… you should be concerned.
8. “Lo Que Vendra” Astor Piazolla
Sounds like the natural world reacting to the wind. You know, the tune is like a camera panning, and zooming in on different plants, ponds, trees, and faces, and framing them in afternoon sunlight, helping you notice how beautiful the simplest things really are all the things that you wish you had time to appreciate when there is a spring breeze.
9. “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin But Soul)” Betty Carter
It’s the truth, damnit. She was just the first to say that.
10. “K.O.S. (Determination)” Black Star