Best New Artist Esperanza Spalding Mesmerizes Crowd In Her Only NJ Appearance
March 6th, 2011 No Comments »
She may have made history at this year’s Grammy Awards by becoming the first jazz musician EVER to win Best New Artist, but Esperanza Spalding hasn’t let the hype change her. Humbly walking onto the unlit stage of the Union County Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 5, Spalding turned on a lamp, took off her coat and poured herself a glass of wine, creating an atmosphere of tranquility amidst the whirlwind of activity that’s occurred in these few weeks since then. Having read Esperanza’s bio detailing how she first decided she wanted to be a musician at age four after watching Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, I couldn’t help but feel that her “arrival” was a small tribute to the daily ritual he performed at the start of every episode.
The packed venue waited breathlessly as the curtain rose, revealing the young virtuoso standing barefoot in her suspender outfit and trademark disheveled hair among the musicians of the Chamber Music Society. Picking up her enormous upright bass, she launched into “Little Fly,” the premiere track of her critically-acclaimed album, Chamber Music Society.
Spalding’s soft moans amidst the classical backdrop created an organic sensation. Her deft handling of the instrument was amazing to witness – there was no pretension about her movements, no outward sign of the extraordinary success this 25-year-old performer has achieved in the last few years. Spalding simply remained in her own world throughout the night, playing to her heart’s content and getting lost in the rhythm and melodies she exuded from her very core.
With songs like “Really Very Small,” “Wild Is The Wind,” “Apple Blossom” and “Winter Sun,” Spalding held the crowd spellbound. She extracted every ounce of emotion from these numbers, starting slow and transitioning into an organized cacophony before swelling to a climax and calming down again. Her voice was just as hypnotic, ranging from barely audible whispers to powerful roars that were just breathtaking to listen to.
We could have easily stayed in our seats all night to witness how this gifted young artist is pushing boundaries, inventing a musical style that blends jazz, scat, folk, funk and Brazilian rhythms with classical chamber music. So it came as a great surprise when the curtain came down bringing to an end what was a wonderful night.
For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Esperanza Spalding, it’s definitely time to change that. Her career is only just beginning, and I guarantee we’ll be hearing more great things from this gifted performer.
To learn more about this extraordinary jazz artist, please visit her website.