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Esperanza Spalding: Redefining Production

The bassist, composer and bandleader on her innovative recent "pop-up" album, "Exposure"

Esperanza Spalding (photo by Carmen Daneshmandi)
Esperanza Spalding (photo by Carmen Daneshmandi)

Last September, Esperanza Spalding found and executed a new concept of live improvised music. The bassist and vocalist, 33, gave herself a 77-hour window in which to compose, record and produce a full album—with special guests including pianist Robert Glasper and singers Lalah Hathaway and Andrew Bird (who also plays violin)—and live-streamed the entire process as a Facebook Live video. The resulting record, Exposure (Concord), saw a limited release split between 7,777 vinyl and CD copies. (The run sold out during pre-order, before the live-stream had ended; the album is not available for digital download or on streaming services.) Spalding felt that the project’s primary artistic values were its spontaneity and viewers’ in-the-moment experience of its creation; she didn’t want to cheapen either with a mass-marketed reproduction. Nonetheless, it’s a strong work that is also an important document of Spalding’s innovative ideas.

Ahead of the release, Spalding spoke with JazzTimes about her new take on improvisation, how the visual component becomes part of that improvisation and why she considers Exposure a major turning point in her artistic development. MICHAEL J. WEST

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