One of my current inspirations, Esperanza Spalding, is a phenomenal singer, songwriter, composer, and instrumentalist. Her primary genre is jazz, but she also fuses bossa nova and neo soul and countless other genres. Her voice is so fluid – and she can sing in Spanish and Portuguese!
I had the pleasure of seeing her in concert October 2010 at Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC. She was wonderful. The stage was set as if the audience was spying on a meeting of instrumentalists. Spalding – dressed elegantly in a pair of tailored pants, low heels, and a sweater – lead the chamber society with her bass through a lovely list of songs and compositions. The audience was primarily an older crowd that knew exactly when to applaud – in between and after performances. Her voice is so soothing to the ear and so mature for her age.
Spalding was born in Portland, Oregon in 1984. Her mother is Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American and her father is black. She discovered the bass at age 14 when she attended The Northwest Academy, a prestigious performing arts high school. The school was not a good fit for her and she later dropped out noting that high school was “easy and boring.” She says that for her discovering the bass was like “waking up one day and realizing you’re in love with a co-worker.” Spalding completed her GED at age 16 and enrolled with a music scholarship in Portland State University. She later applied and auditioned to Berklee College of Music and received a full scholarship. In 2005 she received the Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship. After graduating from college, she was hired by Berklee College of Music, becoming one of the youngest professors in the institution’s history (age 20).
Spalding has recorded three albums – Junjo (2006), Esperanza (2008), and Chamber Music Society (2010). All of them are incredible and each have a different character. Her voice matures and evolves in each album, experimenting with different tones and rhythms. She is a true jazz artist…encompassing all forms of sound and music. She has performed at the White House a couple of times for Obama’s different cultural events. She paid tribute to Prince at the BET Awards in 2010 and collaborated with him during his Welcome to America Tour. She is currently still touring with the Chamber Music Society and is working on the Radio Music Society…set to be released later this year.
Her style deserves a post in my StyleSpy section..coming soon. I would describe it as soulful-audrey-hepburn. Slim, tailored, elegant, simple, bold, confident, jazzy, and the list goes on. I love the way she puts colors together and accessorizes with scarves, vintage jewelry, and vests. And of course, I love her hair.
You should definitely check out her music….it is a must in anyone’s eclectic collection.