Shot live in San Sebastian, Spain, in 2009, this clip shows
Spalding and her band playing a spirited version of “I
Know You Know,” plus some inspired blowing on both
upright and electric.
You Tube search term: Esperanza Spalding – “I Know
You Know/Smile Like That” (Live in San Sebastian July 23,
2009 – 3/9)
At this January 2009 tribute to Stevie Wonder at the White
House, Spalding is stunning in so many ways—with her
slippery upright playing, her sultry voice, her classy couture, and her beautiful smile.
You Tube search term: Esperanza Spalding Live at The
White House. Really amazing.
In this gorgeously moody clip, Spalding proves she’s as
adept with a bow as she is playing fingerstyle—and the
vocal work is mind blowing.
You Tube search term: Esperanza Spalding - “Wild Is
the Wind” (Live in San Sebastian July 23, 2009 - 5/9)
do service to the music. So if it seems like
some dissonance is in order, then that’s
what you do. If it’s a good place for a
simple IV-I cadence, I’ll do that. There’s not
a guiding principle that comes from outside
the music. The guiding principle comes
from within each song and from within
So you take it one song at a time, without
any sort of overarching theme?
Yeah—whether it’s Esperanza Spalding,
Chamber Music Society, or Radio Music
Society, it’s been a song-by-song process,
and then when I look at the final list of
songs, I figure the ensemble will give it
the color that will connect the whole
album. The same is true for bass lines and
I’ve talked about this in terms of playing
with [veteran jazz saxophonist] Joe Lovano,
regarding playing between the two drummers. With that group, there’s no single
approach that works. There’s no specific
way of playing that you can count on.
I’m just listening. In fact, I try to almost
pretend that I’m not playing at all—just to
is ultimately what
signed up for when
they get on the
are there to commu-
nicate honestly and
truthfully and even
listen, from the outside, to the full sound
coming off the stage. Then, as an arranger/
composer, I want to place the bass part so
that it will do the most good for the music
happening at that moment. And it’s different every night—even the same song can be
really different, night to night.
There’s a great line [Thelonious] Monk
wrote about how he’d heard a lot of univer-
sities had a class called “Communications.”
And he said, “I don’t know what that class
is for, but I hope they teach deep listen-
ing and loving speech!” Communication
is ultimately what everybody has signed
up for when they get on the bandstand.
They are there to communicate honestly
and truthfully and even compassionately.
You are trying to contribute to a flowing
conversation in time, so you listen in order
to be better able to speak, and to ask ques-
tions, and to make sense.
What sorts of questions?
You can offer opinions. You can ask,
“Could you describe that further?” Or,
“Have you ever looked at it from this
perspective?” Or you can say, “No, no,
no—I’ve heard that shit before and I don’t
agree!” It’s like there’s a flowing, morphing conversation, so of course you have
to listen—just like you would if you were
talking to someone you really cared about
and you wanted to know more about what
they were saying. And it’s not just jazz.
Great pop bands are made up of musicians
who exercise all those same skills. That’s the
foundation of music.