Esperanza Spalding

Emily’s D+Evolution
Jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding performing at the North Sea Jazz festival 2012 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Photo: JBreeschoten/Wikimedia.
Jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding performing at the North Sea Jazz festival 2012 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Photo: JBreeschoten/Wikimedia.

Esperanza SpaldingPopularly known as that cute female jazz bassist with the Afro who bogarted the Best New Artist Grammy away from Justin Bieber in 2012, Esperanza Spalding’s new album is soul-jazz surrealism at it’s finest. Spalding courageously sidesteps the acid chick jazz of her female contemporaries. In its place is theatricality, poetry, joy, and the progressive leanings of her childhood.

This new album fuses the freedom of jazz with contemporary musical theatre, rock, and spoken word. Refreshingly reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s mid-’70s Jaco period, Spaulding is center stage performing songs of love, introspection, and self-exploration. Standing upon the shoulders of Meshell Ndegeocello and Janelle Monae, her music undulates and turns on a dime. And all this accompanied by gorgeously discordant guitar clusters and inventive textures.

With dazzling bass work throughout, Spalding is accompanied by Corey King on keys, trombone, and background vocals; drummers Justin Tyson and Karriem Riggins; and the wonderfully gifted guitarist Matthew Stevens.

Lush vocal harmonies dance with atmospheric guitar over layers of dreamy hybrid soul. Highlights include the Mitchell-esque “Earth To Heaven,” the angular “Rest In Pleasure,” and the alternate version of “Unconditional Love” with its mesmerizing guitar solo.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s August ’16 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.