Esperanza Spalding @ the Roots Picnic – Festival Pier, Philadelphia

Yesterday’s day-long Roots Picnic held at Philadelphia’s Festival Pier on the Delaware River was an amazing event and is definitely in the running for best music festival of the summer. The official start time was 2PM but gates opened at noon and hosts The Roots kicked things off with a pre-show set at 1:30PM, giving the early arrivals a special treat and getting everyone pumped for a day jammed packed with amazing music. The first official act of the day was the beautiful and wildly talented vocalist/bassist Esperanza Spalding.


Spalding, a Portland, Oregon native who grew up in a bilingual home, is a prodigy turned professional and made history at Berklee College of Music (her alma mater); after earning her B.M. on an accelerated study program, Spalding became an instructor at the school at the age of 20, making her the youngest faculty member in the history of the school.

The Roots’ ?uestlove introduced Spalding as the day’s “first distinguished guest” as the slight and beautiful musician took the stage. She was joined by a keyboard player, guitarist and drummer with the occasional addition of a backing vocalist. The group, led by Spalding’s intricate bass lines, created gorgeous jazz that excelled in its instrumentation and introduced the sound of jazz to a new potential fan base. Despite her small stature, Spadling’s stage presence and energy were amazing, even as she supported her large, upright bass.

After the band’s first two songs, Spalding informed the crowd, “we’re actually jazz musicians,” as if it hadn’t been apparent, and followed with, “we’re gonna do something of the jazz vernacular, if you will. Do you dig? I said, ‘Do you DIG?!'” The crowd cheered before Spalding went on to liken jazz to the Bodies exhibit “because it’s dead but it’s inside of us and is everything we know,” and had the band play “Body and Soul.” Her following number, “Winter Sun,” featured a great deal of improvisation as she and the keyboardist played off of each other’s whims.

Spalding’s set was hot, jazzy and totally perfect for the 90-something degree summer afternoon. She’s clearly mastered the bass, which she plays phenomenally, and can scat with the best of them. Jazz comes organically to Spalding, allowing her to create the most beautiful music that someday will undoubtedly land her a coveted spot in history next to the jazz greats.

Whether or not you dig jazz, a set by Esperanza Spalding is definitely something you should hear should the opportunity arise. Spalding will be traveling the world (dates below) through October, so catching her live set shouldn’t prove too difficult. Familiarize yourself with the splendor that is Esperanza Spalding, you won’t be disappointed.

Tour Dates:
Jun 10 – Catalina Bar & Grill/Los Angeles
Jun 11 – Jimmy Kimmel Show/Los Angeles
Jun 12 – Yoshis, 501 Embarcadero West/Oakland, Ca.
Jun 14 – Portland Jazz Festival @ Winningstad Theater/Portland
Jun 16 – Amazon Showcase/Seattle
Jun 17 – Jazz Alley/Seattle
Jun 18 – Jazz Alley/Seattle
Jun 20 – Borders in Store/Boston
Jun 21 – Museum of Fine Arts/Boston
Jun 25 – JVC Jazz Festival/New York City
Jun 26 – Birchmere/Alexandria, Va.
Jul 04 – Casco Histórico – Open Air/Lanzarote (Teguise)
Jul 05 – Auditorio Insular de Fuerteventura/Puerto del Rosario (Fuerteventura)
Jul 06 – Plaza de España – Open Air/Los Llano de Aridane (La Palma)
Jul 07 – TBD – Open Air/Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tenerife)
Jul 08 – Plaza de Santa Ana – Open Air/Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Jul 12 – Copenhagen Jazz Festival/Copenhagen
Jul 16 – Pori Jazz – Otava Factory /Pori
Jul 17 – Pori Jazz – Otava Factory/Pori
Jul 18 – Pori Jazz – Kirjurinluoto Arena/Pori (w/ Carlos Santana)
Jul 19 – Stockholm Jazz Festival/Stockholm
Aug 03 – Music Heaven Stage @ Central Park/Schenectady (NY)
Aug 05 – University at Buffalo South Campus – Outdoor Festival Stage/Buffalo
Aug 06 – Nigth Town/Cleveland
Aug 10 – JVC Jazz Festival Fort Adams State Park/Newport, RI
Aug 30 – Cadillac Square – Detroit Int´k Jazz Festival/Detroit
Sep 03 – Billboard live Osaka, Herbiz PLAZA Ent b2/Osaka
Sep 04 – Billboard live Fukuoka, DADA Bldg, B1/Fukuoka
Sep 05 – Billboard live Tokyo, Tokyo Mid Town Garden Terrace 4F/Tokyo
Sep 06 – Billboard live Tokyo, Tokyo Mid Town Garden Terrace 4F/Tokyo
Sep 15 – BimHuis/Amsterdam
Sep 16 – Ancienne Belgique/Brussels
Sep 17 – Cosmopolite/Oslo
Sep 19 – Sardinen USF/Bergen
Sep 20 – Kjellern/Trondheim
Sep 24 – Jazz House/Copenhagen
Sep 25 – Giant Steps/V. Skerninge
Sep 26 – Nefertiti Jazzklubb/Goteborg
Sep 27 – Fasching Club/Stockholm
Sep 28 – Dunkers Kulturhus/Helsingborg
Sep 30 – Central Station/Darmstadt
Oct 04 – Falmouth Jazz Fest – Falmouth Harbor Bandshell/Falmouth, Ma.
Oct 10 – College Park/Maryland
Oct 11 – Wellin Park/New York City
Oct 22 – TIM FestivalMarina da Gloria Jazz/Rio de Janeiro
Oct 24 – TIM Festival Auditorio do Ibirapuera/Sao Paulo

Esperanza Spalding: website | myspace

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