Esperanza Spalding Live In Singapore
Last night Singapore was treated to a concert of the highest quality by one the brightest sparks in the music world, Esperanza Spalding. Touring on the back of her recent album, Radio Music Society and here as part of the Mosaic Music Festival, Esperanza and her full 12 piece band brought the Esplanade Theatre to […]
Last night Singapore was treated to a concert of the highest quality by one the brightest sparks in the music world, Esperanza Spalding. Touring on the back of her recent album, Radio Music Society and here as part of the Mosaic Music Festival, Esperanza and her full 12 piece band brought the Esplanade Theatre to life in a vibrant musical celebration.
The acclaim around Spalding is already well documented. A self-taught musician, who grew up with the single mother in a rough ghetto, she was performing live by the age of five and became a chamber music concertmaster by the age of fifteen. Soon after she started playing bass gigs in local clubs and left high school at the age of sixteen to study music, first at Portland State University, then later Berklee College of Music in Boston, where before she was twenty she was invited onto the teaching staff.
Esperanza first came to prominence playing music heavily influenced by Brasilian Jazz and her phrasing, both vocally and on bass has a natural affinity to that genre. However, in Radio Music Society, she changed direction a little and explored the roots of Soul, R&B and Fusion, while maintaining a strong Jazz identity (she draws heavily on Thad Jones in her arrangements). It’s a bold, confident and hope-filled album that I believe deserves to be compared to great releases like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.
On stage, Esperanza Spalding has a swagger we rarely see in a jazz artist so young and a level of technical artistry we seldom encounter in the world of popular music. She is a natural anchor and focus of attention on stage, not just because she a a beautiful young woman with an amazing shock of afro hair, but, far more importantly, because she is the ringmaster of a broad and talented troupe of musicians whose playing carefully cantilevers out from this young star’s extraordinary voice and powerful musical groove.
In fact, given how well orchestrated and arranged this show was, it is remarkable how loose and fluid it felt. Spalding used casual banter, conversation with the crowd, herself, or an imagined lover, to introduce and segue the songs and when the time came for her band to take solos, she gave said soloists plenty of room, built powerful grooves underneath them and encouraged the players to take risks. And, Esperanza’s own playing and singing was quiet remarkable. The whole concert was the perfect marriage of fearless artistry, technical brilliance and deep preparation.
It’s hard to pick out highlights, because, honestly, there were no weak points or disappointments. Cinnamon Tree was remarkable, performed slightly slower than the album version, with a wider groove. Spalding closed out the night with a shining rendition of Radio Song, complete with an explanation of the song’s meaning and a nice crowd sing along, before coming back for two encores.
The last of which saw Esperanza on stage alone, just her, an acoustic bass and the spotlight, performing Precious, one of her most well known tracks, which was warmly received by the audience (many of whom were very familiar with her repertoire). This was an earthier, slower and richer version than previous versions and seeing her extract new tones and textures from this song was a fitting end to a marvellous night of music; a sign there is still so much more to come from this extraordinary artist.