Esperanza Spalding takes her Latin fusion mainstream

Jazz prodigy Esperanza Spalding, still eager to teach – and learn

Bassist Esperanza Spalding takes her Latin fusion mainstream.

By Stephen Humphries | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

When Esperanza Spalding was still a senior at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the jazz singer and bassist had a startling moment of self-recognition. Traveling on a bus into the city, she glanced up at the college – briefly visible from the highway – and saw a multistory poster of herself on the wall of The Berklee Performance Center. “I had no idea!,” she exclaims.

The billboard, an early indicator of stardom in 2005, is appropriate for a larger-than-life personality who, at age 20, became the youngest faculty member in the college’s history. Now, Ms. Spalding is having a different kind of banner year. She’s about to appear on David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel as her second album of Latin jazz knocks on the door of mainstream success.

Remarkably, it’s not a “crossover record.” A couple of the songs are in Portuguese, for starters. As her voice sambas over vibrant South American rhythms and her Elastigirl fingers climb up and down the double-bass’s skyscraper neck, you’d swear the girl was from Ipanema, not Portland, Ore. Even people who think they don’t like jazz may respond to the melodies on “Esperanza.”

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