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Esperanza Spalding: The Intimate Balance

By Published: February 14, 2011
AAJ: And how did you manage to combine both genres without allowing classical to overpower jazz, which happens often?

ES: One thing that we haven't talked about yet, which is a crucial factor, is that when I got the original idea to do this album, one of the places that I looked for inspiration in the arrangements and in the writing was in this Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
record, called Wide Angles (Verve 2003), that features the Quindectet, which is a pretty large chamber ensemble and rhythm section, and, of course, Michael Brecker with his wonderful musical self. So I didn't realize that Gil Goldstein's music, the producer, I had been transcribing and studying his work for years. I never even knew his name. And finally when I realized who arranged those parts on that record, I knew that I needed him for my record. Now I know that we are so incredibly compatible, conceptually, that it was just magic.

We sat together, we started talking about the concept, and I showed him what I had at the time, and I showed him the arrangements, and he said, "Oh, yes, I see what you want to do here," and we worked on everything. And I asked him to arrange a few things too, and he would take little ideas and then just do exactly what I envisioned! He totally got me. He was a big integral part, I think on keeping that music balanced. Some people might think that one overpowers the other, but I guess the motivation coming into the whole project, with the arrangements and everything was to create this community, this society that we all very democratically are offering our strengths and our work to the music. So I think we get that, that we are all kind of given equal significance and importance in the arrangements.

AAJ: If you had to describe this album with just one word, what would it be?

ES: Intimate? That's the first word that just came to mind. Maybe that wouldn't be the right one, I'd have to think about that, but it is the first one that came to mind.

AAJ: How do you feel about being called "the future of jazz and instrumental music"?

ES: Oh, I think that would be pretty shallow. That doesn't mean anything. I'm 25 and I haven't done anything yet. There are people that are responsible for people like me to even be here, and those are the people that deserve to be called something like that. Everyone shares those moments and they all share the credit.

AAJ : You have a beautiful soul, and your music seems to reflect every single little thing about you. What is music to you? I'm asking this because of how you play and how you sing and how you write.

ES: The question to me would be "What is language? What is communication?" Whatever is the answer to that question, that's what music is to me.

AAJ : So music is a way for you to communicate with others.

ES: I guess so. There's really no answer. There's no answer to communication, to language. What is speech? There's so many ways to approach it. We can approach it from a scientific perspective, or we can approach it in a more philosophical way—you know, speech is the way we communicate our inner thoughts. A lot of people can understand what thinking and feeling and experiencing it is like...There are so many ways to describe what it is. So if you can think of what is the definition of communication, then you'll find what music is to me.

Selected Discography

Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society (Concord Records 2010)

Lionel Loueke, Mwaliko (Blue Note, 2010)

Ana Carolina, Nove (Self-produced, 2009)

Mike Stern, Big Neighborhood (Heads Up, 2009)

Joe Lovano, Folk Art (Blue Note, 2009)

Fourplay, Energy (RCA Victor, 2008)

Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Concord Records 2008)

Esperanza Spalding, Junjo (Ayva Musica, 2006)

Christian Scott, Anthem (Concord, 2007)

Stanley Clarke, The Toys of Men (Heads Up, 2007)

Nando Michelin Group, Duende (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006)

Ramona Borthwick, A New Leaf (Whaling City Sound, 2006)

Photo credits

Page 1: Johann Sauty, Courtesy of Esperanza Spalding

Page 2: Nelson G. Onofre

Page 3: Roger H. Sassaki

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