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Concert Review: Esperanza Spalding, Orpheum Theatre, Boston, April 22

A triumphant homecoming for the Grammy winner and rising star

Esperanza Spalding - Photo by Ben Johnson
Esperanza Spalding, International Jazz Day, NYC, 4-12

Esperanza Spalding had much to celebrate when she headlined Boston’s Orpheum Theatre on April 22. Most obviously, the show was an early stop on her tour promoting her pop-chart-climbing new album, Radio Music Society. But it also took place on Earth Day, a fact she acknowledged by offering a free download of her sand animation video version of her cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species” via her website (the film premiered earlier that day on three Jumbotron screens on the National Mall). It was also a homecoming of sorts, Spalding having begun her rise to prominence while a student (and, briefly, a teacher) at the Berklee College of Music.

It was also worth celebrating a jazz musician having been booked at a venue of Orpheum’s size (2700 capacity), and nearly filling the space with a diverse crowd of jazz buffs and pop fans. Four-year-old Brooklynn Masso sat watching raptly from her daddy’s lap while a couple of rows in front of her was Fred Taylor, longtime local jazz impresario, who gave Spalding’s career early support by booking her at his current club, Scullers, and at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. Not far from Taylor sat saxophone hero George Garzone, whose path no doubt crossed Spalding’s at Berklee, and there were likely others on hand who had never seen live jazz before, let alone played it.

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