Four – time Grammy Award winner, activist, educator, and multi-talented musician Esperanza Spalding was recently recognized by the Library of Congress in Washington, DC – where she performed a stellar set in front of a sold-out Coolidge Auditorium. Spalding – a composer, vocalist, lyricist, bassist and violinist has established herself as a progressively innovative artist who continues to inspire and uplift her listeners. A voracious live performer – she has shared the stage with musical legends like Herbie Hancock, Prince, Alicia Keys and performed for former President Barack Obama several times at the White House and during his Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremonies. It was only fitting that during her recent performance, Spalding was recognized and honored with a beautiful piano and violin commissioned by the Library of Congress.
The historical element of Coolidge Auditorium at The Library of Congress will always hold significant value. It was where Jelly Roll Morton – one of the jazz music’s first arrangers, spent countless days and nights recording his catalog of compositions back in 1938 (which many consider one of the first jazz recordings). Renovated many times over the years, the auditorium overlooks the U.S. Capitol and is remarkably elegant and cozy. Concertgoers rushed inside the halls on a warm Friday evening in May to get a seat at this special concert which was free by rsvp but sold out in minutes!
Spalding’s ensemble included Francisco Mela on drums, Leonardo Genovese on piano, and Olivia de Prato on violin. Opening the concert, Genovese and dePrato gave a rousing artistic demonstration on both piano and violin bringing the crowd to laughter and ending with dePrato slamming her violin to the stage floor destroying it in comedic frustration. Esperanza opened with an intimate conversation with the audience while sitting on the steps of the stage and reading some of her collection of poetry inspired by those whom she draws inspiration from which included a beautiful poem dedicated to jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. After her poetry reading, Spalding delivered a soulful set of arrangements by both Genovese, dePrato, as well as her own. With an amazingly smooth voice and exceptional vocal range, Spalding danced around the stage while singing a Brazilian inspired tune. Soon after, she grabbed the bass and delivered a rousing set of selections bringing the crowd to a thunderous applause. Spalding was awarded a commissioned piano and violin from the Library of Congress (which explains the smashing of the violin early in the show).
Esperanza Spalding is a truly remarkable artist with an abundance of creativity and talent. Her stage presence is overwhelming yet so laid back. A beautiful young lady with a beautiful spirit. It’s unfair to simply call her a musician, because her many works cover all aspects of the artistic scope. But her voice is golden and her musicianship is extraordinary! Esperanza Spalding is focused and passionately driven to share her work with the world.
*** Special thanks to Ann McLean @ Library of Congress!
-Jamaal Bailey (Urban Heat Advisory)