The Esperanza Spalding Quartet plays at Birch North Park Theatre on September 13.
I wanted to hire this kid for a jazz festival in Indiana in the mid ’90s. The committee looked at me like I was nuts. I had just passed around his bio sheet. All they could seem to get from the page was that he was 14. Yeah, so? I thought to myself. Mozart wrote music when he was five.
I told the committee I could get a great rate. Of course, we’d have to fly in his mom, too. The bottom line won on paper, and the audience won that summer in Indiana. The kid grew up, is still growing up, and is still an amazing player and composer. He’s now a two-time Grammy nominee, festival headliner, and jazz-chart topper.
If you’re not hip to Taylor Eigsti, get there. But, this isn’t about him. It’s about…well, I’m not sure. Is it about jazz and a new generation? Is it about this one girl in particular who is waking up a whole new audience to the sound of jazz?
I got the buzz early on Esperanza Spalding’s 2008 release Esperanza because that’s what we jazz-radio people do. Then, I got the disc. Call me shallow, but I love how freakin’ cute this woman is! But…what about the chops? Put the CD in and there they were. Those chops. The bass-line chops. The vocal chops. The songwriting and arranging chops. It’s all there. And it’s all fresh. Even the classics, like “Body and Soul,” beautifully bounced up as “Cuerpo y Alma.”
So, I guess what this is about is simple: If you think jazz is dead, you’re not paying attention. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta keep jazz in your face.
DJ: Claudia Russell
STATION: KSDS, 88.3 FM
SHIFT: 4–6 p.m., Monday–Friday.