Monday, December 18

Esperanza Spalding; Are we Ready For a Jazz Singer From Portland, Oregon?

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I am not surprised that Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist; she is the Best New Artist that your average pop music listener knows absolutely nothing about.  Esperanza Spalding is a jazz singer from Portland, Oregon known for playing the upright bass, bass guitar, violin, oboe and clarinet, and she can also sing.    This is the first time that a jazz singer has won the award for Best New Artist, so the win is as much an interesting change in the history of the Grammy Awards as much as it is an upset.

The artists that Esperanza Spalding were up against defined what we listened to on the radio and downloaded on the Internet, but she defines jazz music for her generation.  Chamber Music Society is her third album, so while she is knew to pop culture, she has been around since 2006.  People are hypothesizing about rappers that she should work with, and how she can merge jazz with pop culture but I think the music should be left alone.  Some listeners appreciation for music has become so perverse they cannot accept music for what it is, within the limitations that an artist is forced to work within.  Everyone has to blend their sound with something else to create something new, and no one can leave anything alone.

Esperanza Spalding’s music is great exactly as it is.  Rappers butchered Sade’s track Soldier of Love, and completely ruined the song.  So many people were enthusiastic about the “beat” that they just had to jump on it and completely forgot about the hard work, blood sweat and tears that the band put into the music.  People forget that Sade does not have “beats” that you can spit over; her music comes from an actual band of musicians and you can feel the chemistry that they have with each other.  We have to develop an appreciation for acoustic music that requires us to slow down and experience music.  The album Soldier of Love, is a slow movement of tracks over 45 minutes that is meant to be experienced in its entirely; forget about skimming through the tracks, go on a road trip, and allow it to play from the beginning to the end.  Some of Esperanza Spalding’s songs have introductions that go on for two minutes or more before she even starts singing, or if she is going to start singing, because she might play a solo on an instrument.  Real music, from a real artist; a young artist carrying on a great tradition, so it will be interesting to see how much the rest of us learn to appreciate her work, or if we will throw into the blender or the microwave and serve it to ourselves in 90 seconds …

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