Esperanza Spalding: Who? Grammy’s Best New Artist, That’s Who

The upset of the 2011 Grammy Awards? Some say the Album of the Year should never have gone to Arcade Fire for The Suburbs. But even more people are asking ‘who the heck is Esperanza?” Here is some info on The Best New Artist of the Year (by the way, this marks the first occasion the award has gone to a jazz artist):

She is one terrific jazz bassist as well as a very swinging singer.

Spalding was the 2005 recipient of the Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship. Almost immediately after graduation from college later the same year, Spalding was hired by Berklee College of Music, becoming one of the youngest professors in the institution’s history at age 20. As a teacher, Spalding tries to help her students focus their practice through a practice journal which can help them recognize their strengths and what they need to pursue. As of 2008, she was also in the process of developing several courses for students at Berklee, including one that focuses “on transcribing as a tool for learning harmony and theory Since that time, Spalding currently lives in Austin, Texas.

Solo records and collaborations

She has recorded three albums Junjo (2006), Esperanza (2008) and Chamber Music Society (2010). The first was created to display the dynamic that she felt among her trio. Though Junjo was released solely under her name, Spalding considers it “a collaborative effort”. With Esperanza, Spalding’s material was meant to be more reflective of herself as an artist, with musicians selected to best present that material. Ed Morales wrote in PopMatters on June 23, 2008 that Esperanza is “a sprawling collage of jazz fusion, Brazilian and even a touch of hip-hop.” Siddhartha Mitter wrote in the Boston Globe on May 23, 2008 that “the big change” in Esperanza is the singing….. This makes it a much more accessible album, and in some ways more conventional.”

In addition to these albums, Spalding has collaborated with Fourplay, Stanley Clarke, Christian Scott, Donald Harrison, Joe Lovano, Nino Josele, Nando Michelin, and Theresa Perez.