Wednesday, February 23, 2011

IS ESPERANZA SPALDING THE REAL DEAL?

A few days, after you won the Grammy for best new artist, I had a debate with several jazz musicians and respected jazz authorities on facebook. Esperanza, we agreed you are a wonderful bassist with a promising future, but we disagreed when I commented you are not a jazz musician. That sparked the debate. The pointed I tried to convey was you did not deserve the Grammy because you have been on the music scene since 2006, and you have released three albums “Junjo,” “Esperanza,” and “Chamber Music Society”. None of which are jazz albums.

Esperanza Spalding
During the discussion, your supporters overlooked those points. They focused on my questioning you. Some cited your work as a side-woman with saxophonist Joe Lovano proves you are the real deal. One musician stated Lovano hired you because you are a great jazz bassist. I countered the saxophonist hired you simply because you are a competent bass player. Many jazz fans were hyped when Herbie Hancock's album "River: The Joni Letters" won the Grammy for album of the year.

They believed Hancock winning the Grammy was good for jazz. Believing that was silly. Although the album was flawless, it was not a jazz album, and Hancock given his crossover track record is no long regarded a jazz musician. Years before he won that Grammy, many record companies closed their jazz division, leaving many jazz musicians without deals. 

Because Hancock won the coveted award did not alter how the music industry treats jazz. Those record companies never reopened their jazz divisions or resigned the jazz musicians they fired. Jazz is still viewed as the bastard child of the music industry.

A few weeks ago, pianist Vijay Iyer ended his performance at the Power Center in Ann Arbor, Mi with Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”. Playing that song did not make Iyer a pop artist. On James Carter’s live date “Out of Nowhere”, Carter and sax man Hamiet Bluiett battled on R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”. Doing so did not qualify the saxophonists as R&B artists. Herbie Hancock performed with Christina Aguilera on one of his cross over recordings. That did not make the pop star a jazz vocalist.

 Esperanza, the discussion about you lasted most of the day. We remained at loggerheads. However, I believe you are a dynamic bass player and good vocalist. You are still searching. The music industry and maybe even your handlers want to pawn you off as the next Norah Jones. For the record, Jones is not a jazz musician either.
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