With a fro as wild as her bass playing, jazz musician Esperanza Spalding has been making a name for herself in the jazz community since the release of her debut album Junjo in 2006. A graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Esperanza bounced back and forth from the violin, oboe, clarinet, and cello, before settling on the bass at the age of 14.
Growing up in a single parent household in the less-than-glamorous King neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, the multi-cultural Esperanza (she is of Welsh, African, and Hispanic descents) began writing lyrics and and performing at the tender age of 15 with local band Noise for Pretend. After honing her vocal chops, she received a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music. Deciding to step out of the box, Esperanza not only dedicated herself to her studies, but began touring with saxophonist Joe Lovano's quartet. Making her way from California to the Carolinas, she began to build a following not only for her talent as a young female bass player (very few standing bass players are actually female), but for her unique look and background as well.
Although her 2006 debut Junjo was released under her name, Esperanza considers it a collaboration piece between her recording/touring trio and herself. Her most recent album, however, 2008's Esperanza, is a more introspective work. Showing off the strength of her voice, the album beautifully blends jazz, Brazilian beats, and even a bit of R&B tinges. I am embracing everything that Esperanza is-- in a marketplace full of sexy, showy starlets, she is quietly different, and definitely someone to keep on your radar.
Check out her music here, and peep a short film featuring an interview with her discussing her music and where she comes from, below.