By Nandi Majola
Her vocals have earned her comparisons to jazz greats, Flora Purim and Minnie Ripperton. At 28 years of age, she has become well-established among jazz circles. She has also followed in the footsteps of Grammy laureates, The Beatles (1965), Lauryn Hill (1999), Amy Winehouse (2008) and Adele (2009), winning the award for Best New Artist in 2011. She is, however, probably most well-known for beating Justin Bieber who was nominated alongside her, becoming the first jazz artist in history to receive the award.
She is a legend in the making, probably not among mainstream artists but certainly in her own right. She does not have the sass and sex appeal of most female artists her age, but her self-titled album, Esperanza, meaning “hope” and which debuted in 2008, will make you wonder where she fits in an industry that is more about spectacle than talent. Esperanza exudes the refined skill and spirit of a music student that has cultivated and mastered her craft while at music school. As a Berklee College of Music alum, Spalding showcases her talent with her beloved Bass and flawless vocals. This artist does not limit herself linguistically, singing in Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish. Her choice of “Ponte de Areia” as the first track is a way into the hearts of jazz lovers who first heard the song from Brazil’s Milton Nascimento in the 70s. Her vocals spread over the percussion, bass and piano in “I Adore You”. Its ominous beat hardly matches its romantic title and her scatting abilities could make her the Ella Fitzgerald of our generation.
“Cuerpo y Alma” (Body and Soul) is also not an original, but the addition of her bass playing reflects the finesse and affinity she has for her craft. Her vocals also embody her youthful and modern approach to jazz. Spalding is not afraid to experiment with different textures and rhythms of sound that translate into a kaleidoscope of emotions. She sings the lyrics, “Did she barge in and steal your heart away?” with a boldness, making “She Got to You” a far cry from the woeful love tune it was supposed to be. There is no self-deprecation in her delivery of these lyrics and it could very well be an anthem for those who have experienced the pain of a third party in a relationship.
Simple, youthful, yet extraordinarily creative, Esperanza will take its listeners on a musical journey that is a fusion of the old school and the new. With themes that range from the political to the politics of love, it is a statement album for the jazz prodigy.