Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sense and Sensibility

ULTRA has come and gone, and though the tinnitus may still be keeping you company, it may be time to sit down and have a long talk with yourself. If I were you, I would light the fire, pull up a chair, don the slippers, brew the chamomile tea, and spin the record on the turntable with something a bit more soothing. Get safe. Get warm. Get soulful. 
First a question: what’s with the American fixation with grades, rankings, listage, etc.? Even though I myself succumbed as well at the end of last year, such trivial measuring is far beneath me. (though evidently, hypocrisy isn’t) Why can’t both McCartney and Lennon be the best Beatle? I have room in my head for Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton. Why imagine Magic, Bird, Jordan, and LeBron as competing? Van Gogh isn’t better than Picasso? 
With this in mind, the clip of Esperanza Spalding playing the electric bass after a cackling Jools Holland salivates upon introducing her, transports one back to the 70’s of Minnie Riperton, Billy Cobham, and Stanley Clarke despite his calling hers a sensational, new sound.  Shrimp colored kaftan flowing, old school Angela Davis afro blowing, Ms. Spalding may sound sensational, but reborn seems more accurate than new. This is fusion and fashion redux. Ms. Spalding: Shall I compare you to number 1? Thou art more lovely and more temperate, but who’s counting? 
Ms. Spalding’s videos and photos reveal a fine kind of shapeshifting. The video for Endangered Species has her funking in a sweet, black minidress, scarf and jewels bobbing along with the Weather Report groove. Tuniced and mini-skirted in a live clip from San Sebastian, Ms. Spalding kills I Know You Know, singing breezily and happily, as cool and free as the other side of a Brooklyn, boutique hotel pillow. She emotes; I nod my head and approve. Plus -- I love the natural do for the Levi-clad, European crowd. Legit, unpretentious cool. Later she caresses the upright bass, closes her eyes, and destroys Smile Like That. In still another incarnation, Ms. Spalding covers Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed -- face made up, lipstick on, shiny designer dress fitted to the nines, necklace sparkling, and heels rising -- a glamorous rock star playing jazz at a formal, White House, East Room gathering. Little Fly, the moody, melodic piece I played while covering for Mark Hayes on WDNA last year adds a string trio to lyrical verses by William Blake. Had it not been for the damn Tire Kingdom ads and insufferable anti-Obamacare propaganda poisoning my YouTube experience, I could have listened and watched all morning.  

I will get my live chance on April 19th at the Arsht Center when Ms. Spalding brings it to Miami at 8:30. This is Live at the Knight breaking serious, soulful ground. The jazz cognoscenti, perhaps having nothing better to do than quibble about Ms. Spalding’s style and intentions, complain about how she will have to sell out to sell more, if she wants to become number 1. Call me wishy-washy, but I don’t want to get into the middle of this mess. That said, I hope she brings the European look to Miami so I don’t feel underdressed.

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