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Esperanza Spalding        

Grammy Award-Winning Jazz Musician

Spalding was born and raised on what she calls “the other side of the tracks” in a multi-lingual household and neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in a single-parent home amid economically adverse circumstances, she learned early lessons in the meaning of perseverance and moral character from the role model whom she holds in the highest regard to this day -- her mother.

However, the one pursuit that made sense to Spalding from a very early age was music. At age four, after watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood," the roadmap was suddenly very clear. “That was when I realized that I wanted to do something musical,” she says. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit.”

Berklee College of Music was the place where the pieces all came together and doors started opening. After a move to the opposite coast and three years of accelerated study, she not only earned a B.M., but also signed on as an instructor in 2005 at the age of 20 -- an appointment that has made her one of the youngest faculty member in the history of the college. She was the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship.

Spalding’s journey as a solo artist began with the May 2008 release of "Esperanza," her debut recording for Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, which went on to become the best selling album by a new jazz artist internationally in 2008. The highly acclaimed release was the first opportunity for a worldwide audience to witness her mesmerizing talents as an instrumentalist, vocalist and composer. The New York Times raved, “'Esperanza' has got a lot: accomplished jazz improvisation, funk, scat singing, Brazilian vernacular rhythm and vocals in English, Portuguese and Spanish. At its center is a female bassist, singer and bandleader, one whose talent is beyond question.”

Soon after release, "Esperanza" went straight to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart where it remained for over 70 weeks. Spalding was booked on the "Late Show with David Letterman," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "the CBS Saturday Early Show," "the Tavis Smiley Show," Austin City Limits and National Public Radio. Other highlights included two appearances at the White House, a Banana Republic ad campaign, the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2009 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year, the 2009 JazzWeek Award for Record of the Year, and many high profile tour dates, including Central Park SummerStage in New York and the Newport Jazz Festival. 2009 was capped by an invitation from President Obama to perform at both the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway -- where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded -- and also at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

And as well as being on the road with her own band, Esperanza has toured with Joe Lovano, and has also performed with pianist McCoy Tyner.

In early 2010, Spalding was the subject of an in-depth profile in The New Yorker, she was also featured in the May 2010 Anniversary issue of O, The Oprah Magazine’s “Women on the Rise” (in a fashion spread that features portraits of 10 women who are making a difference in various careers), and she was again nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association for their 2010 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year.

If "Esperanza" marked a brilliant beginning for this gifted young artist, then Spalding’s August 2010 release, "Chamber Music Society," sets her on an upward trajectory to prominence. Inspired by the classical training of her younger years, Spalding has created a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is a sound that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical chamber music traditions. Co-produced by Esperanza and Gil Goldstein (with string arrangements provided by both), "Chamber Music Society" finds Esperanza with a diverse assembly of musicians: pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, percussionist Quintino Cinalli, guitarist Ricardo Vogt, and vocalists Gretchen Parlato and the legendary Milton Nascimento. The string trio is comprised of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin and cellist David Eggar.

Esperanza has presented this album with a number of tours across the USA and Europe, as well as travelling to Japan to play at the Blue Note club in Tokyo and also down to the Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa. The album has also been supported with TV appearances on the top American late night chat shows, such as David Letterman and Jay Leno.

In February 2011 in Los Angeles, Esperanza received one of the music industry’s most prestigious prizes, the Grammy for Best New Artist. As Esperanza later said, she was surprised and also grateful to receive this award. It had been a very special day, as earlier on Esperanza has co-hosted the pre-telecast with Bobby McFerrin and also performed with the Grammy Jazz Ensemble.

Chamber Music Society is the third album by Spalding. After her surprise Grammy win, the album re-entered the Billboard 200 at number 34 with sales of 18,000.

Spalding was the best-selling contemporary jazz artist of 2011, and her album Chamber Music Society was the best-selling contemporary jazz album.

In February 2012, Spalding performed at the 84th Academy Awards, singing the Louis Armstrong standard What a Wonderful World, alongside the Southern California Children's Chorus to accompany the video montage that celebrated the film industry greats who died in 2011 and early 2012.

Radio Music Society is Spalding's fourth studio album, released by Heads Up International in March 2012. Spalding hoped this album would showcase jazz musicians in an accessible manner suitable for mainstream radio, while incorporating her own musical compositions with covers of such artists as the Beach Boys and Wayne Shorter.

Spalding also made guest appearances during this time, appearing on Janelle Monáe's 2013 album, The Electric Lady, on the track "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes". She also sang a jazz duet on Bruno Mars' album, Unorthodox Jukebox, called "Old & Crazy". In November 2013, Spalding released a single "We Are America" to protest the Guantánamo prison camps, with cameo performances by Stevie Wonder and Harry Belafonte.

In March 2016, she released her fifth studio album, Emily's D+Evolution, released by Concord Records. The album was co-produced by Spalding and longtime David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti. On the album, Spalding sings through the alter ego of Emily, which is her middle name.

In December 2017, Spalding released Exposure, which is her sixth studio album. For this project, she embarked on a creative experiment beginning on September 12, 2017, setting out to create the album from start to finish in 77 consecutive hours, while streaming the whole creative process live on Facebook.

Once completed, she released 7,777 limited edition recordings of the album. The packaging of the physical album included a piece of the original notepaper Esperanza used to write the lyrics and music, allowing those who witnessed the process to own a piece of the creation itself, directly from the source. About the experiment, Spalding stated that it being live forced her to be more creative, because there was no option to return to the same thing and try again.

She appeared on the NOVA production The Great Math Mystery, talking about the connection between music and mathematics.

From October 7 to October 18, 2018, Spalding released twelve tracks - one per day - that, in unity, form her seventh studio album, 12 Little Spells. Each "spell" was accompanied by a music video released on her official YouTube channel and correlates to a singular body part. Spalding described the album's experimental structure as a result of her gradual distancing from the title of an "artist", gravitating towards a concept-driven identity.

News


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Perhaps you first heard the name Esperanza Spalding in 2011, when an award that many were calling an easy win for Justin Bieber instead went to an eclectic young bass player, singer and composer. The first jazz musician to win the Grammy for Best New Artist, Spalding is a self-taught prodigy turned pro has only broadened her reach and ambition since crashing onto the national stage.

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