Esperanza Spalding to perform at London Koko on May 2821 May 2012
‘She has dizzying possibilities, is prodigiously talented, and has a gorgeously expressive voice’ – The Daily Telegraph
When relative unknown singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding defied all odds and beat off competition from Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine and Mumford & Sons to win the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, stunned music critics, fans and bloggers alike took to the web to express their amazement at what was, seemingly, one of the biggest upsets in the history of the awards. As the news travelled around the world, pop music fans scratched their heads and furious Bieber fans vandalized Spalding’s Wikipedia page, whilst those already familiar with her music revelled in the news that gave long overdue reward to an artist possessed of a singular and style-spanning presence that was always destined to make her a star.
In April Spalding released her fourth studio album Radio Music Society, her most diverse, ambitious and masterful collection yet. The music is realized by many of the supremely gifted musicians who comprise Spalding’s ever-expanding universe, including hip-hop giant Q-Tip, who performs on and co-produced two tracks, jazz legends Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart, guitar heroes Jef Lee Johnson and Lionel Loueke, and an array of vocal luminaries including Lalah Hathaway and Gretchen Parlato. Esperanza is set to bring her incredible live set up to London Koko on May 28 for a headline show.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Spalding grew up in a single-parent home and was both blessed and cursed with a highly intuitive learning style that often put her at odds with the traditional education system. However, the one pursuit which began to dominate from a very early age was music. She picked up her first instrument aged four and made such phenomenal progress that by the time she graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music aged twenty, she was immediately offered a job on the teaching board – an appointment that made her one of the youngest faculty members in the history of the college. Her journey as a recording artist began with the 2006 release of Junjo, with its 2008 follow up Esperanza becoming the year’s best selling album worldwide by a new jazz artist. A succession of awards and eclectic appearances followed, ranging from support bills alongside the likes of Prince and The Roots, to performances at both the White House and the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, at the behest of Barack Obama.
Radio Music Society is a companion, rather than a sequel, to Spalding’s previous disc, Chamber Music Society, which garnered critical acclaim and topped jazz charts around the world. “Originally I thought it would be fun to release a double album,” she explains. “One disc with an intimate, subtle exploration of chamber works and a second one in which jazz musicians explore song forms and melodies that are formatted more along the lines of what we would categorize as “pop songs.” Those are the two things that really interest me, and it intrigues me to think about different presentation approaches while writing each kind of song. On the pop song side, I think about listeners who aren’t into jazz, but I also think about the people within my musical community who can interpret each idea best.”
“Art doesn’t thrive with too much analyzing and explaining,” Spalding notes. “The idea of `radio music’ is very broad.” With the release of Radio Music Society, Spalding seems poised to expand the concept itself even further, not to mention the limitless horizons of the music world’s most exceptional young artist.
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