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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Esperanza Spalding proves she's the real deal
Arts & Entertainment
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Esperanza Spalding proves she's the real deal

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Esperanza Spalding
February 25
Newmark Theatre


'This girl has depth.' That thought kept running through my mind when Esperanza Spalding performed to a sold-out audience last weekend at the Newmark Theatre, headlining the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival.

The recent Best New Artist Grammy-winner began her show by walking on stage, sitting down on a plush armchair, turning on a small lamp, then taking off her shoes and pouring herself a glass of wine. As she kicked back on the chair, soft music began to play and almost immediately the curtain rose. Behind it were members of the Chamber Music Society.

Spalding opened with 'Little Fly' from her 2010 album, aptly titled Chamber Music Society, plucking tenderly on a double bass leaning against her body. In slim black pants and matching vest with a striped, sleeveless shirt underneath, she stood barefoot with her hair sponged out like a cloud around her head. When the Portland native wasn't plucking her instrument, she was tipping it to one side and tapping it, or gliding a bow against the strings back and forth.

'Wild is the Wind' sounded amazing in the 880-seat venue, a two-level theater with fine acoustics in the heart of the city. During 'Short and Sweet,' Spalding sang and also whistled - although with her gifted vocal range, she could've easily been singing that part, too. And while performing 'Apple Blossom' she sat through most of it, bending over as well, and yet her vocals were effortless as she moved from one position to another.

The highlight of the evening had to be Spalding's cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'Inutil Paisagem,' featuring backup singer Leala Cyr, who also provided rhythmic clapping as an accompaniment to the double bass. The main set ended with a beautiful fusion of piano from Darrell Grant, another product from the Rose City, percussion from Terri Lyne Carrington, and Spalding playing her instrument - a rapturous finish to an impressive showing by the young artist.

A few minutes later, Spalding returned to the stage and said, 'All right, I'll do something else.' She capped the near-two hour concert with a solo rendition of 'Midnight Sun.' Then she reversed her entrance - sitting down on the plush chair, putting her shoes back on, turning off the lamp, and exiting the stage as the Chamber Music Society faded out and the curtain dropped. A standing ovation and loud cheers erupted from the audience, her second standing ovation of the night.

There's no sass or attitude from Spalding. She's a straightforward entertainer who at times exists in her own little world and the crowd is all but a spectator. This explains why she was never interactive with concertgoers, which took some by surprise who expected her to acknowledge her hometown. To her credit, however, Spalding's music is a series of intricate compositions that require precision and skill, so maybe instead of ignoring the audience she was simply just dotting the i's and crossing the t's - after all, she is the new It girl.

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