As Esperanza Spalding appeared on stage in shadow, applause erupted throughout the Chicago Symphony Center. She stood there in the dim light for a moment, and then sashayed over to a floor lamp and chair. She turned on the lamp light, slipped out of her jacket, and sunk into the big comfy easy chair. As she kicked off her shoes, she reached for a glass of red wine and took a sip or two, as if to say, “A perfect ending to a long day. Now I’m going to relax and enjoy some great jazz music.”
Spalding walked over to center stage, and picked up her bass. Still barefoot, as she remained throughout the concert, and with six different accompanists including drummer, Terri Lyn Carrington, began to play “Little Fly”. This was the prelude for the head bobbin’ good time we were about to have.
Spalding’s stage presence was relaxed, confident and sexy. She plays the bass so effortlessly, as her fingers moved so fast up and down its neck and fingerboard. Her scat runs were effective and the fusion of jazz and Latin beats she sang and played worked well. Her singing voice, though very powerful was so soft and soothing.
Esperanza scatted “What A Friend” with her back up singer who performed an unusual but interesting rhythmic hand clap.
Spalding’s bass also served as her dance partner as she danced the cha-cha with it, swinging her big hair while still strumming away. At one point she turned her bass on its side and used it like it was a conga drum when she beat its sides during a duet with Carrington.
At the conclusion of the 90 minute set, Spalding went back to the easy chair, sipped more wine, put on her shoes and jacket and left the stage. She returned however, for two more standing ovations.
Already well known within the jazz community, it is certainly a treat to the rest of the world experiencing the talents of the Grammy’s 2011 Best New Artist recipient.
By Tracye Dee
Photo: Farrad Ali