Esperanza Spalding to tour for ‘Emily’s D+Evolution’


by Jacquinn Sinclair – published in The Philadelphia Tribune

Grammy-award winning singer and instrumentalist Esperanza Spalding is the queen of cool, cloaked in a bit of mystery. Her fifth and latest venture, “Emily’s D+Evolution” came to her during a full moon, in a dream-like sequence of sketches; a musical story unraveling before her.

“It wasn’t actually a dream. I was awake. It was a night close to my birthday, and I couldn’t sleep between gigs. It just kept getting more intriguing to me as I played with it. A year and a half later, here we are,” she said.

During her tour to promote the album, 30-year-old Spalding — whose middle name is Emily — hopes to “create a world around each song.” She says, “There are a lot of juicy themes and stories in the music. We will be staging the songs as much as we play them, using characters, video and the movement of our bodies.”

Those juicy themes are not something she can easily explain.

“I don’t like to talk about sound and movement, I don’t think you can. It would be inaccurate. I can show you better than I can tell you,” said Spalding.

Whatever it is that she is eager to share with fans during her performances this summer, it’s sure to be a testament of her growth as an artist and as a person. From her first album, “Junjo,” to “Esperanza, Chamber Music Society” and “Radio Music Society,” Spalding has stretched as an artist, exploring different feelings and musical realms. The silky-voiced celebrity’s concerts are joyous dalliances through complicated chords. She’s dazzled listeners at the White House, collaborated with a number of artists including Janelle Monae on “Electric Lady,” Bobby McFerrin, Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington for “The Mosaic Project” and also released “We Are America,” urging for the close of Guantanamo.

The young starlet has had a whirlwind career, but she’s always open to, and up for doing and learning more. Spalding soaks up life’s lessons from everyone. Scores of knowledgeable advisers and friends have helped keep her on track throughout her journey.

She counts the late, legendary Philadelphia guitarist Jef Lee Johnson as one of her mentors.

“I loved him very much. I learned about not getting caught up in that superficial bull—t [that comes along with] being an artist and being somebody. He was very unattached to hype. [It was] really all about the music and letting it speak for itself. He was a beautiful spirit. A no-nonsense, funky soul and a brilliant, great mind,” she shared.

The incredibly busy talent, who loves to meditate, read and clean (believe it or not), almost forgot that lesson from Johnson about staying grounded. During a year off, Spalding took time reevaluate herself and get centered.

“I think I had to get off a high horse that I didn’t know I was on. [I felt like] I hadn’t seen my instrument in forever. I needed to think about my sense of self and worth. I had a self-revelation: I gotta work on myself! A lot has changed, and it’s ongoing. Things have changed with my band and how I run my business. Musically I don’t think anything has changed, it’s an evolution. The ‘D+Evolution’ of change and that’s the nature of the climate; the universe. Direction isn’t absolutely forward or absolutely back.”

Move with Spalding at the Theatre of the Living Arts, this Sunday, May 17, at 8 p.m.


Wynton Marsalis: The essence of music comes from the spirit – Bay State Banner

Music—especially blues and jazz—has little bits of all of us in it according to celebrated jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.

Last Thursday, Marsalis’ lecture and performance “Music as Metaphor” at Sanders Theatre was the kick-off for a two-year initiative “Hidden in Plain View: Meanings in American Music” with Harvard University. The series is the latest example of Harvard’s commitment to integrating arts and education.

The nine-time Grammy award-winning trumpeter, documentarian and author is also a gifted griot that expertly stitched together quotes from Bessie Smith, Louie Armstrong and Nietzsche that attempted to capture in words the essence of music.

With more than 70 albums to his credit, Marsalis delivered a poetic soliloquy peppered with musical vignettes for more than three hours to make audiences feel its significance. He taught concertgoers that the rhythm section is the foundation of music and the epitome of sacrifice.

The rhythm section sets the tone and the pace but is always relegated to the back of the stage, never getting the glory. Coupled with the delicacy of strings and the charisma of soloists, each section comes together in a melody or riff to say something.

He talked about the evolution of certain genres of music such as Negro spirituals and the blues borne out of the hearts of slaves bearing heavy burdens. Injustices like slavery, internment camps, wars and other cruelties have spawned beautifully painful melodic contributions from all over the world. But it’s up to music lovers to be in tune with where the artists are coming from and receive their messages.

Throughout the ages, artists have been truth tellers for civilization; they speak about the essence of their society in ways that others cannot or will not. “You need to listen to what’s being said,” he explained.

The New Orleans native is the artistic director at the Lincoln Center, and holds an honorary doctorate from Harvard. Marsalis’ motifs for his lecture were love, listening and the connectedness of the human spirit.

Learning the “math of music” or music theory is not enough to move people. All the notes can be in the right place and the music can be technically sound, but if the person’s soul is not in it, then nothing is being said.

Humbly, he urged audience members to listen ever so carefully to what a song is saying.

In 1995, Marsalis worked on a documentary called “Marsalis on Music” where he asked numerous musicians what music means to them, and every musician talked about some form of love. Whether it’s blues, jazz, techno or rock, Marsalis claims that all music is essentially the same because it comes from the same place — the spirit.  He said he believes it can help us live our nation’s creed and transcend our differences.

“This music cost us a lot,” Marsalis said. “But not knowing what it means, costs us a lot more.”

 PDF version: Bay State Banner – Wynton Marsalis