Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bring on the bass!

posted by Lani Stack
Flynn Marketing Coordinator, Editor

The very best perk of working for the Flynn is the opportunity to experience performances I otherwise wouldn't have attended. In the 10 months I've been here, this privilege has deepened my love for modern dance, fostered an appreciation for experimental theater, and introduced me to bluegrass music—among many other examples.

Last night I took a chance on jazz. I confess, I know little about the genre, and I'm sometimes intimidated by its swank and sultry sophistication. But I've always loved the deep thump of the bass, and so was drawn to last night's spectacular FlynnSpace show by jazz phenom Esperanza Spalding, part of the Flynn's 10-day Discover Jazz Festival. And while I expected a great show, I didn't expect to be so deeply moved by this 23-year-old wisp of a girl.

Sporting a gravity-defying cloud of hair and skinny "skeleton bass" (easier to travel with than a full-sized instrument, Spalding explained, as her larger counterparts have an annoying tendency to become temporarily lost by airlines), Spalding opened with her melancholy arrangement of Autumn Leaves (listen on her Myspace page). Her high, whispery vocals segued into a sharp scat rhythm then cascaded into throaty, full-bodied song—all complementing the deep, mesmerizing sounds plucked from her bass. Accompanied by the fabulous talents of pianist Leonardo Geonvese and Lyndon Rochelle on drums and percussion, Spalding packed FlynnSpace—standing room only—and surely made of plenty of new fans, (myself certainly included). Her original compositions were just as poignant as her arrangements of jazz standards, but it was her tender version of the heartbreaking Body and Soul that brought tears to my sentimental eyes.

Alain Mallet, a pianist for the Paul Simon Band and the Phil Woods Quintet, is undoubtedly a much more knowledgeable judge of musicians than I, but my praise for Spalding echoes his: "She is simply the most promising musician I've come across in recent years. Such maturity and musicality would have been impressive enough had she been in her 30s, but she's barely 20."

Enviably young, stunningly beautiful, and outrageously talented, Spalding has already proven herself a master of her craft. I'd bet that everyone who appreciated her in FlynnSpace last night will follow her promising career trajectory.

Next up: I hope to learn more about the roots of reggae and ska with Lee "Scratch" Perry, in the Discover Jazz Festival's Waterfront World Tent on Saturday. He's billed as "part genius, part madman, 100% audio alchemist"—who could possibly pass that up?

photograph of Esperanza Spalding by Youri Lenquette

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