Female instrumentalists have been a rarity in jazz music, but Esperanza Spalding, only 25 years old, is an irresistible and intriguing performer who is forging new paths in the jazz world. With the ability to not only play double bass, sing, and compose music, but also to do all of these things simultaneously in performance, Spalding is often referred to as “the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.”
Spalding was born on October 18, 1984 in Portland, Oregon and was raised in a single-parent, multi-lingual household. Spalding says her mother’s strong-willed, independent nature, was an important aspect of her development as a musician: her mother was her role model and taught her the value of perseverance, moral character, and work ethic. Spalding did not excel in school and also suffered from childhood illness; however, causing her to be home-schooled for several years and eventually drop out of high school by age sixteen.
Despite her struggles, music spoke to Spalding. At age five, Spalding taught herself to play the violin, and by age six, she won a position in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. But Spalding was truly fascinated with the double bass, and its ability to play classical music as well as jazz, funk, blues, and hip-hop. By age fifteen, in addition to fulfilling her position as concertmistress with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, Spalding was playing double bass and writing songs in local clubs.
After leaving high school but receiving a GED, Spalding enrolled as the youngest bass player at Portland State University and finished her degree in three years. She then became the youngest faculty member in the history of the Berklee College of Music.
Aside from being a modern day Mozart-like prodigy, Spalding’s performances and recordings exhibit her most intriguing and inspiring talents. Composing songs that cross boundaries between classical, jazz, hip-hop, and funk music, singing lyrics or scat, and playing bass simultaneously, Spalding is a visionary performer. Listen to and watch Esperanza Spalding’s performances at www.esperanzaspalding.com.