- Esperanza started the evening by coming out in a trenchcoat, turning on a desk light, and sitting in the comfy chair. Kicked off her shoes, poured a glass of wine and took a sip. Wandered barefoot over to the band and dove in. Finished up the same way. She was barefoot through the whole performance, and I loved that.
- SFJAZZ: "Spalding"s singular status became clearly evident this year, with her stunning breakthrough as the first jazz musician ever to win the coveted Grammy Award as Best New Artist. "
- Esperanza's got a delicate-but-pure quality that for some reason reminds me of Joni Mitchell's greatest vocal jazz work. But with marmalade, and a Brazilian sensibility. As if Joni Mitchell married Tom Ze' and Herbie Hancock.
If I had one complaint, it would be that there's a a bit too much "preciousness" in her material - lots about apple blossoms, friends in winter, etc. It's not overbearing or Hallmark-y.... just a bit constrained. And though the band did break out into some crazy rhythms and amazing vamps, I sometimes found myself wanting them to really cut loose. But that's really not what Esperanza is about. There's a reason she got the Grammy - this is highly palatable jazz, not the avante garde. Just enough experimentation to perk up your ears but not so much as to alienate. Pretty inside stuff. Still, I know she's keeping even more energy locked away that's not being revealed, and I'd love to hear it.
Great to see so much estrogen energy in jazz for a change. Six out of seven band members were female (exception being the pianist). Spalding doesn't have a huge voice, and so much of what she does is understated, or contained. So many male musicians would overwhelm her style - had to wonder if the gender choice was intentional or coincidental. No matter - it worked wonderfully.
- Highlight of the evening for me was her cover of Nina Simone's "Wild is the Wind" - one of the most passionate, beautiful songs I know. It takes a lot of courage to cover Simone, but Spalding brought her own thing to it, making it her own while retaining all the majesty of the original. Almost cried.