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Esperanza Spalding

One of the brightest new voices in jazz and of the string bass, Esperanza Spalding, although only 23, clearly has a bright and productive career already underway. Born in Portland in 1984, she began playing the violin when she was 4. She performed with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon for 10 years (starting when she was 5). By the time she was 15, she had switched to the bass and to popular music, performing locally, at first with a blues band and then with several groups. Spalding recorded two albums with the fusion group Noise for Pretend for the Hush label. At 16 she was enrolled in the music program at Portland State University and the following year she began attending Berklee. After a semester, she toured with Patti Austin.

She also had a chance to tour with Joe Lovano and, after graduating early; she became a teacher at Berklee in 2005 at the age of 20, the youngest faculty member in the history of the school. Spalding recorded her debut as a leader, Junjo, worked with Christian Scott, Donald Harrison, Michel Camilo, Regina Carter, Gretchen Parlato and Dave Samuels, moved to New York, and led her own quintet, for which she composes and arranges in addition to playing bass and singing. Her vocalizing came about as a way to learn standards and now she often sings (mostly wordlessly) while backing herself on bass. Esperanza Spalding’s first recording for a well-distributed label is her recent CD for Heads Up, simply titled Esperanza.