Jay Meehan: Esperanza and Emily
There are those artists who, seemingly, just can’t contain themselves. Early success or lack thereof matters little. Unable to remain static and bask in any glow whatsoever that wafts their way, as a form of creative survival, metamorphoses ensue.
An incessant buildup of aesthetic energy causes them to burst at the seams. They overflow! Pablo Picasso found cubism as an outlet. Bob Dylan found release in going electric. Examples abound. A more recent case-in-point would be the lovely and talented Esperanza Spalding.
She flat-out dazzles, this girl. It’s always been the case. There’s the top-shelf performance art, of course, and there’s no denying what record label publicists have taken to calling "the visual component." Anytime a jazz bassist, cellist, and vocalist walks away with the Grammy for Best New Artist as Ms. Spalding did several years back, you know something quite special is afoot!
Since first exploding onto the music scene, wrapped deliciously around an acoustic bass and flaunting a most glorious "afro" hairdo atop her slender and expressive frame, her "shtick," you could say, went viral. It might even be safe to add that jazz music had never seen her kind before.
Well, since her recent "Emily’s D+Evolution" concept tour got underway, it’s become most evident that the name Esperanza Spalding can be added to the list of artists with little patience for standing still. Not that she’s moving-on artistically, but on this tour we will encounter much different aspects of her creative being.
Featuring an entirely new body of work, without even an album release to support so that she can lean on the crutch of audience familiarity, to almost everyone who has caught one of her recent tour stops, the latest incarnation of Esperanza, call her Emily, her middle name, is "mind-blowing."
Nothing within this new show harkens back to her creative past. In fact, she has hit the "refresh" button, a move that allows her to showcase her even-younger self. And, when Esperanza takes the stage at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater next Thursday, July 30, suffice to say, her introduction of Emily will not be subtle.
We fans are in for a night of surprises. Both the musical riffs and new lyrics will more than likely be taking us through uncharted waters. I have a feeling that Emily is one rapturous piece of work. And, from what I hear, she’s the one at the helm. Emily is not only "in the building," she has taken the "conn."
I must admit, all this ecstatic buzz that’s been generating around the "Emily’s D+Evolution" tour since it first left the starting gate has me more than a bit excited to dip my toe into the waters.
Basically, I’ve always been a welcoming sort when it comes to favorite musicians or writers or painters or sculptors breaking new ground and, although there may be times during the show when I suffer a pang of nostalgia for the "old" Esperanza, I wouldn’t miss Emily’s "coming out" for the world!
In fact, I have a feeling that this is one of those artistic experiences we’ll be digesting and bragging about having partaken of for years to come. There will be a confrontational component no doubt, as well there should be in any art at this level. At this point, however, without yet having experienced the full-frontal Emily, it’s all about wonder!
Yeah, I have a notion that Esperanza’s modern-jazz component with its Brazilian, soul, and chamber art overtones, has been given some time off and that those more personal influences from her youth that have been bottled up for a spell have been given voice and will be free to romp.
This, of course, is conjecture. What makes her new tour so inviting is that we, as fans, don’t have any real clue about what’s going to go down when she floats into Deer Valley dragging her anything -goes canoe behind her on Thursday, July 30.
What will that perfectly pure voice of hers have in store for us? And her most-excellent bass chops? And her new compositions? And I’m sure that’s only the half of it! Something tells me she’s not the sort to take prisoners! She can’t fool me! She’s out to get our attention!
Park City is ready for you, Esperanza! Bring on Emily and tell her to give us her best shot! We’re not the sort to shudder! In fact, we want a taste of every facet of your creative soul! You had us with "Hello!"
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.