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

esperanza-emily-project

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.

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Raphael Saadiq set to play Electric Factory

Soul singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Raphael Saadiq is coming to the Electric Factory May 26.  Saadiq — who made us feel good as one third of ’80s group Tony! Toni! Toné! and made us dance with Lucy Pearl—is back with a new album Stone Rollin.’

Released May 10, Stone Rollin’ is a musical nod to Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ Stone. He took funk, blues and rock and mixed it with contemporary soul to create his masterpiece. As an artist Saadiq has always made good music, but lately he’s seems, well, better.

Reminiscent of times when music making consisted of string sections and doo-wop singers instead of auto tune and drum machines, “Stone Rollin’” sounds familiar, but not common. Lush instrumentation, strong vocals and variety of genres make listening to it a treat. Some standout tracks are “Go to Hell,” “Over You” and “Movin’ Down the Line.”

Saadiq’s talents along with his musical knowledge make him somewhat of a living legend. He’s worked as a producer and/or collaborator with a number of groups from D’Angelo to The Roots to the Bee Gees and is an executive producer of hit TV show Love that Girl starring Tatiana Ali.

Despite his talent and his remarkable fashion sense, Saadiq — born Charles Ray Wiggins — is humble. He readily learns whatever he can from anyone around him and infuses it into his music. In between touring and photo shoots the Tribune had a chance to talk to Saadiq about what he likes to do to relax and what separates the good from the great.

Philadelphia Tribune: Tell me about the Esquire Live in Detroit Fashion shoot. I know you had to write a song for it. Where did your inspiration come from? The song sounded eerie.

Rafael Saadiq: Being inside Motown always makes me feel like that. There are so many great musicians who walked those halls that are dead now. Every time I am there, it feels eerie and creepy. That’s what I was going for.

PT: I know you’ve worked with The Roots before, where do you like to hang out when you come to Philly?

RS: I never really get a chance to. But, I’ve been to that soul food restaurant Ms. Tootsies.

PT: What are some things you try to do everyday?

RS: Go for a walk or run, check out an exhibit at a museum, look at cameras and look at fashion.

PT: I’ve read that you’re a horse lover. Do you take care of them yourself or do you have help?

RS:  Yeah, yeah I do when I’m home. I do everything. I got into them because of my cousin Lamont. He was really into horses. We used to ride them in the summer.

PT:  What music is in heavy rotation for you right now?

RS: Patrice Rushen and Marvin Gaye Live. We have these iPod wars on the tour bus. I am NOT winning! My bass player has everything. He’s like you ever heard of this dude Red? I’m like, I’ve never heard of him. He’s got everything.

PT:  Where’s your favorite place in the world?

RS:  I haven’t been to South Asia or Africa yet so I don’t know. But, I really like Barcelona. It’s one of a few places I can get a healthy breakfast like egg whites, yogurt and fruit.

PT: You recently tweeted that you were paying dues in Germany, but now it’s time for dues to start paying Saadiq. What did you mean by that?

RS: It was just one of those frustrating moments. Like, I gotta get up and go all the time. I was just tired. I haven’t been in my bed with the exception of two to three times since February. As soon as I typed it I thought: Aww hell no. Did I just type that for the whole world to see?

PT: Would you ever revisit Lucy Pearl or put another band together?

RS: Right now, I’m in the middle of so much stuff. I would explore playing with other people, but I’m not sure about completing records together.

PT: What separates the good from the great?

RS:  You can always tell who’s just good. The person who does something good starts to celebrate too soon. The person that’s great is too busy making another move.

Read the interview: Philadelphia Tribune – Raphael Saadiq set to play Electric Factory.pdf

Van Hunt – Philadelphia Tribune

Shalon Goss photo

Creative chameleon Van Hunt will be at World Cafe Live this Sunday, April 1 at 8 p.m.; to promote his new album, What Were You Hoping For? Hunt — who grew up with a part-time pimp/painter/factory worker father — hails from Ohio. He’s had two major label releases including his self-titled debut album in 2004 and On the Jungle Floor in 2006.

After his second album he switched from Capital Records to Blue Note where his third project Popular was shelved. Despite that setback, diehard Hunt fans nabbed tracks from Popular (arguably one of his best efforts yet) and Use in Case of Emergency (released in 2009) online.  The Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer, has written tracks for singer Cree Summer best known as Freddie from A Different World, co-wrote for Rashaan Patterson and wrote and co-produced “Hopeless” for Dionne Farris, former member of Arrested Development. “Hopeless” appeared on the
soundtrack for the movie Love Jones. Now, he’s back again with a new sound. There’s punk, rock and blues all mixed up in crazy guitar licks and vocal riffs. The first track “North Hollywood” is a guitar heavy track where Jimi Hendrix meets funk at church;“Watching You Go Crazy” gives a lesson in rock and “Moving Targets” is a slightly ethereal ballad.

On a warm Sunday afternoon in between tour stops, the Philadelphia Tribune had a chance to talk with the singer about his musical journey.

Read the interview here: Van Hunt brings unique sound to World Cafe.