This week William Price King introduces us to a young and vibrant jazz bassist and singer whose unique style has captured both the critics and jazz fans’ attention. Meet Esperanza Spalding.
Esperanza Emily Spalding (born 1984) is an American jazz bassist and singer. Spalding was raised in Portland, Oregon, and was a musical prodigy, playing violin in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon at five years old. She was later both self-taught and -trained on a number of instruments, including guitar and bass. Her proficiency earned her scholarships to Portland State University and the Berklee College of Music. In 2017 she was appointed Professor of the Practice of Music at Harvard University.
She has won four Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, making her the first jazz artist to win the award.
Spalding has an interest in the music of other cultures, including that of Brazil, commenting that the melody and language of songs in Portuguese are inextricably connected. Spalding’s mother shares her interest in music, having nearly become a touring singer herself. Spalding’s mother took note of her musical proclivity when Spalding was able to reproduce Beethoven by ear on the family’s piano. Spalding has credited watching classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as an integral part of her childhood, and what inspired her to pursue music.
By the time Spalding was five, she had taught herself to play the violin and was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She stayed with the group until she was fifteen years old, and left as concertmaster. Due to a lengthy childhood illness, Esperanza spent much of her elementary school years being home-schooled, but also attended King Elementary School in northeast Portland. During this time, she also found the opportunity to pick up instruction in music by listening to her mother’s college teacher instructor, who instructed her mother in guitar. According to Esperanza, when she was about eight, her mother briefly studied jazz guitar in college. She said that she accompanied her mother to the classes, sat listening under the piano, then at home repeated what the teacher had played. Spalding also played oboe and clarinet before discovering the double bass in high school. She sings in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
“Junjo” is Esperanza Spalding’s debut album, released in 1996 on the Spanish label Ayva Music. Her emotional soft scatting along with her conversational bass playing is a musical celebration of folk art. Her style is natural and sensual, and her concept is lyrical throughout as she sails along with a comfortable rhythmic drive that never fades. There are Latin flavors, free moments and implied and direct swing. She is accompanied by pianist Aruan Ortiz and drummer Francisco Mela.
“Radio Music Society”, the fourth studio album by Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for the track “City of Roses”. With this album Spalding injected her jazz roots with soul and gospel, and displays her ability to make it swing, big-band style. The smooth jazz arrangements helped make this album successful beyond the jazz genre as she branched out sonically. “Radio Music Society” became Spalding’s first Top 10 album reaching #10 on the Billboard 200 chart and #1 on the Top Jazz Albums chart.
“Chamber Music Society”, Spalding’s third studio album (released in 2010) became the best-selling contemporary jazz album of 2011, making her the bestselling contemporary jazz artist that year. This album earned its title as “chamber music” by bringing together two trios representing different aspects of Spalding’s past: a jazz one featuring pianist Leo Genovese and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and a classical strings group. This production illustrates the endless potential of a young artist who can draw from any musical source on the planet, and make music that is personal, profound, unique and impassioned. “Chamber Music Society” introduces Latin rhythms alternating with funk, swing and Brazilian grooves. Spalding’s bass playing is more economical and expressive and her vocals are stronger. That said, with its musical diversity, stylistic panache, and soul, this is a fantastic super album.
On July 26, 2017, Spalding did something audacious by announcing that her new album “Exposure” was to be recorded in 77 hours with no previously prepared songs and limited to 7777 copies. The idea for this concept sprang from what she heard on an elevator one day when a man, headed to the seventh floor, said “seven is a divine number. It’s the number of completion. It represents the earthly culmination of a divine thought.” She liked that sentiment and decided to act on it.
This was to be streamed live, giving her fans the chance to see her create songs from scratch and record them in real time with her band. Her band included Ray Angry on keyboards, Matthew Stevens on guitar, and Justin Tyson on drums, with a little help from her friends Andrew Bird on violin, LaLah Hathaway on vocals, and Robert Glasper on piano. Spalding’s outstanding musicality is present throughout. All 7,777 physical albums were completely sold out by the final day of Spalding’s live stream on September 15, 2017.
“12 Little Spells” is Spalding’s seventh studio album. It was released in 2018, by Concord Records. All of the songs were released individually and every track contains a music video. Each one of the songs, which Spalding refers to as “spells”, is dedicated to a different part of the body, and was created with the notion of the song healing or helping listeners with those particular parts of their anatomy. On this album Spalding sings to various parts of her body, examining the complications existing within the female skin as opposed to focusing on what some popular beauty magazines consider as flaws.
The idea of this album came from her work in the field of musical therapy. The number 12 is an allusion to the 12 tones of the chromatic musical scale. Musically, the album is extremely organic with great instrumentation, soulful vibes, and her amazing voice. She is accompanied by Matthew Stevens on guitar, Justin Tyson on drums, Aaron Burnett on saxophone, Burniss Travis on bass, Corey King on background vocals, and Rob Schwimmer on continuum.
Additional sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanza_Spalding
Buy music by Esperanza Spalding: https://www.amazon.com/Esperanza-Spalding/dp/B0014HC56K
Buy Limited Run and exclusive Music: http://esperanzaspalding.limitedrun.com/
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ghFm78RhT2eg6rPIVHRVg
About William Price King
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION – https://williampriceking.tumblr.com
Connect with William
Website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – https://twitter.com/wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-music-column/
As always we would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally and William