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Esperanza Spalding

Performer

About this Artist

Four-time Grammy® Award winner, jazz bassist, vocalist, composer, lyricist, and educator, Esperanza Spalding has seven acclaimed solo albums and numerous music videos to her name. In the past decade of her artistic journey, she has continually married genres, pushed boundaries, and created groundbreaking work that invites audiences to imagine beyond the boundaries of music as entertainment.

She is recognized internationally for her virtuosic singing and bass playing, her impassioned improvisatory performances, her singular artistic vision drawing from a dazzling stylistic range, and her brilliant creative capacities as both a composer and lyricist. Spalding’s artistic practice involves a unique synthesis of elements and aesthetics from jazz, rock, funk, soul, and Brazilian musical traditions, as well as theatrical elements and lyrical storytelling. Perhaps her most iconic performances are those for which she was the laureate – invited singer and bassist at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and subsequent concert, when President Barack Obama won the Peace Prize in 2009 – an invitation that testifies to her status as a national treasure with global resonance.

Spalding’s most recent project, 12 Little Spells, was described as “truly intoxicating” by The New York Times and appeared on a number of Best of 2018 lists including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard. 12 Little Spells was first penned by Spalding while on a writing retreat at a castle in Italy – inspired by the healing properties of art and a speculative investigation into how music-spurring explicit bodily sensations interact. Each spell is based on a different body part, exploring the way the hip moves and bears weight, the feeling of blood pumping through veins, and beyond. Spalding recorded the album with her band in just a few days, and then released each spell with its own video on her Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube pages over the course of 12 days – the videos combined had 4 million views and counting. In November and December, she unveiled a completely new live concert with a customized stage design, gowns designed for her by Diego Montoya, choreography, and projected images – limited to just 12 performances.

On Spalding’s previous project, Exposure, she set out to compose and record an album from start to finish in 77 hours, while streaming the whole creative process live on Facebook. This demanding feat of musicianship was an artistic marathon that yielded not just a 10-song album, but a community of sleepless fans who watched every second. Her groundbreaking livestream garnered 1.4 million views, over 4 million minutes of views, and nearly 400,000 reactions, comments, and shares along the way. Before Exposure ended, all 7,777 copies of the album (priced at $50) had sold out. Exposure was a logical next step for this visionary artist.

In July 2017, Spalding was appointed Professor of the Practice of Music at Harvard University, where she teaches a range of courses in songwriting, arranging, improvisation, and performance, while also bringing her commitment to music as a voice for social justice. Harvard’s Dean of T.H. Chan School of Public Health Michelle Williams described Spalding as someone who “connects with communities about all the things we care about [regarding] improving population health.”