From Berklee student, to Berklee instructor, to Grammy Award-winning jazz phenomenon, Esperanza Spalding’s story is inspiring to musicians everywhere. After a gig with Joe Lovano, we got a chance to sit down with her at the Village Vanguard in New York City so she could share some of her story and advice. Coincidently, this was right before the release of her album and amazing rise to the top of the jazz charts. We were honored to have the privilege.
If “Esperanza” is the Spanish word for hope, then bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. Blessed with uncanny instrumental chops, a multi-lingual voice that is part angel and part siren, and a natural beauty that borders on the hypnotic, the 26-year-old prodigy-turned-pro might well be the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.
Spalding’s journey as a solo artist began with the May 2008 release of Esperanza, her debut recording for Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, which went on to become the best selling album by a new jazz artist internationally in 2008. Soon after release, Esperanza went straight to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart where it remained for over 70 weeks. Spalding was booked on the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the CBS Saturday Early Show, the Tavis Smiley Show, Austin City Limits and National Public Radio. Other highlights included two appearances at the White House, a Banana Republic ad campaign, the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2009 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year, the 2009 JazzWeek Award for Record of the Year, and many high profile tour dates, including Central Park SummerStage in New York and the Newport Jazz Festival. 2009 was capped by an invitation from President Obama to perform at both the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway – where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded – and also at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.