Esperanza Spalding at the Paramount, 10/1/2011

Crystal clear, warm night at the classic Paramount Theater in Oakland - a venue every bit as classy and surprising as Esperanza Spalding and the Chamber Music Society, who we were there to see during San Francisco Jazz Festival.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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. "
  3. Esperanza Spalding | Little Fly music video
  4. The Paramount Theater, Oakland (Esperanza Spalding)
    The Paramount Theater, Oakland (Esperanza Spalding)
  5. 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.
  6. The Paramount Theater, Oakland (Esperanza Spalding)
    The Paramount Theater, Oakland (Esperanza Spalding)
  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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  10. 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.
  11. Esperanza Spalding - "Wild Is The Wind" (Live in San Sebastian july 23, 2009 - 5/9)
  12. Esperanza Spalding | Chamber Music Society
  13. Milton Nascimento + Esperanza Spalding.
    Milton Nascimento + Esperanza Spalding.
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