Esperanza Spalding was a rising star in jazz before beating Drake and Justin Bieber, among others, to win the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. No jazz artist in Grammy history has ever won this category, which has fueled a host of online threats from outraged Bieberites.
Five years later, Bieber (who performs here March 29 at the Valley View Casino Center) continues his stylistic flirtation with EDM, while Drake anxiously awaits the scheduled April release of his new album, “Views From the 6”.
But what about Spalding, the eclectic bassist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, who won two more Grammys in 2013 and another in 2014?
Now 31, she is on tour to promote her stunning new album, “Emily’s D + Evolution”, co-produced by longtime David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti. The tour stops Wednesday at Little Italy’s the Music Box, which occupies the former Anthology site.
Esperanza Spalding presents “Emily’s D + Evolution”
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
Or: The Music Box, 1337 India St., Little Italy
Tickets: $ 35 to $ 55
Telephone: (619) 795-1337
In line: musicboxsd.com
Spalding’s most ambitious work to date, “Evolution” is also the least overtly jazz-oriented release in his 10-year recording career as a solo artist. It combines elements of prog-rock (in particular, King Crimson, circa 1981) and biting funk and neo-soul (in line with Spalding’s periodic musical partner, Prince, at his more daring) with an updated version. the day of classic 1960s rock power trios and the slyly complex melodic and harmonic approach of jazz enthusiast Joni Mitchell (circa mid-1970s).
There also seem to be devious allusions to The Beatles, Kate Bush, Janelle Monáe (another Spalding collaborator) and Dirty Projectors, as well as alternately direct and allusive lyrics, which are sung by Spalding’s cosmic alter ego (Emily is his middle name). The result is an often dazzling concept album that deserves serious Grammy consideration, although in which categories remains to be seen.
Fortunately, two weeks after this record entered my life, I was called to perform at Joni’s 70th birthday celebration in Toronto, where she saw us play (her songs). Herbie (Hancock) was there, and (trumpeter) Ambrose (Akinmusire) and (singer) Lizz Wright. It was very surreal that I got involved with her music, and – two weeks later – I performed for her. And then I met her later that year. Her life means a lot to me as a woman of this world and as a creator (of music). She is a woman who simply kissed herself as a person and as a (living) work of art. She seems to me like someone who really trusts her own intuition and the art that he creates, and that’s really inspiring.