Friday, August 12, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Esperanza Spalding

There was this woman who used to play piano at my wife's church before she went on to continue her studies in music.  Everything about listening to and watching her play was like seeing her perform for the first time.  Physically, she always seemed fairly petite to me.  But when she pulled the bench up the the grand piano, it was like watching a lion tamer - that piano did everything she wanted.  She was capable of playing with such power and physicality that at times I thought she'd dislocate her wrist; she played with such subtlety that you can see the congregation leaning forward to catch every note.  Her stylistic range was amazing - she was comfortable in any musical genre and played with complete cofidence and grace.  She was in short professional grade.

I feel the same about Esperanza Spalding, except you can throw in envy as something I feel when I watch her play.  She is so nimble, so creative with her bass playing that I can't tear myself away from watching her.  She makes it look so easy, so flipping easy.  She sings with the same precision that she plays bass and her stage presence is both cool and joyful - she looks like she's actually having fun.  She is equally at home on upright bass as she is bass guitar; and in addition to being "just" a bass player and vocalist, she's a composer and teacher.  Now, she's a bit of a pioneer too:  she was the first jazz artist ever to snag the "Best New Artist" Grammy. She even beat out everyone's favorite media juggernaut Biebs.  And, oh hell I'll just say it:  she's a total knockout too.

As The Stranger says in "The Big Lebowski", I done innerduced her enough.  She's the full package, the real deal.  It was hard to pick which clip to showcase here - the one I wanted to show can't be embedded - but it doesn't matter: all the clips - all of them - are phenomenal.  Just pick one and dig it.  Here she is covering Stevie Wonder.

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