Review of Esperanza

So Billy and Dad went and saw Esperanza Spalding. The good news is she’s even more beautiful in person than in the pictures – maybe the best hair in America, a lissome body, creamy color, a perfectly sloping nose, lovely face. The bad news is she’s got a long ways to go. She plays bass beautifully – with lots of long slides and a good sense of rhythm. Many bass players attack the bass to get a sufficiently interesting, loud sound out of it. She’s smoother than that and has a better sense of melody. Nevertheless, she’s still a bassist, and a bass just can’t take center stage. So, does her voice command attention? Unfortunately, her voice seems to be a high version of her bass. It floats around like a helium balloon, often without any mooring in a song or a melody or the blues. She’s immensely talented, but she isn’t commanding. She needs top-notch musicians around her, which she didn’t have at the show. She had a chamber group that was Bartok-lite. Her strength seems to be her ability to create a hypnotic, atmospheric sound; but as a leader of a band that’s not enough, at least not in my book. I’d like to see her with Joe Lovano. Her voice seemed best when she was singing in Portuguese. Billy fell asleep halfway through. I don’t mean to be too critical – I’m grateful to have heard her, and she’s very gifted. She’s keeping the intelligence and some of the spirit of jazz alive, which gets high marks as far as I’m concerned. Not everybody can sound like this:

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