all photos: Jason Dixson
Clearly someone in the Washington Performing Arts Society deserves a bonus—DC was fortunate enough to host Grammy award winning artist Esperanza Spalding for an intimate evening at the Warner Theatre. The famed jazz musician, accompanied by her band the Radio Music Society took us as an audience on an exploratory journey of the highs and lows of being in love.
Speaking for myself, though I do believe many others in the audience had a similar reaction to Spalding’s performance—I felt my life was being read aloud to me, and many truths and answers were discovered along the way. Love is a funny thing, that makes us do funny things, and mademoiselle Spalding treated the matter in such a delicate way that brought tears to my eyes at more than one occasion. Music is one of the only ties that connect us all, regardless of the exterior characteristics that separate us… this was her message.
As the theme of love drew on, a quote was uttered which shook me to the core, and is very much worth repeating: “…all this time I was chasing Prince Charming, but what I really wanted was a King.” This segued into her song “Crowned and Kissed”, a beautiful love song praising the Kings in our lives who are more than just pretty faces to come and go from our lives. Spalding has a voice that both soothes and excites the senses, a perfect match to the tone of the evening… you know without a doubt that she believes ever word she’s singing.
She exuded such a calm confidence that made her more relatable on stage, and her range was astounding considering how small of frame she is. Watching her on stage was a sight to be seen—the way her fingers danced up and down the strings of her upright bass like a spider dancing to the way she hugs her instrument like a lover in a deep embrace. This woman is about the music she makes, and her music proves she’s a talent not to be dismissed.
Given how much notoriety she has gained in the recent years, it was so refreshing to see how humble she actually is when playing for an audience. Unlike certain artists with backing bands, she didn’t hog the spotlight, but instead took time to individually highlight her various musicians. While the multiple extended solos may have seemed overdrawn space fillers, they underscored that she isn’t Esperanza Spalding and Company; she’s Esperanza Spalding and the Radio Music Society. Without her band, there is no Spalding… an artist at her caliber being so down-to-earth in her delivery and presentation was a welcomed change of pace.
Her set existed exclusively within last year’s release Radio Music Society, which was slightly unexpected considering she has four albums worth of material to draw from. However, she did give a small treat during her encore with “I Know that You Know” from her self-titled second album. It was also a pleasure to hear her jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Can’t Help It“… a hit unto itself, but made even more enjoyable with Esperanza’s take.
Notable moments included solos from Hailey Niswanger on alto sax and Jeff Galindo on trombone, who also treated us to a very interesting skat break-down. Her backing vocalists, namely Chris Turner, also deserves some recognition—his voice carried extremely well with Esperanza’s during their intro into “Black Gold”. Upon her encore, she whittled her band down to just a select few individuals, but the impact was all the same as these musicians were certainly in top form for this DC audience.
I wouldn’t have expected any less from a WPAS sponsored event, and after this night I can say with total confidence my expectations were surpassed. I can only hope that you will make room for this talent within your music library as Radio Music Society is fully available on both iTunes and Spotify.
- Hold on Me
- Can’t Help It (Michael Jackson cover)
- Smile Like That
- Crowned and Kissed
- Black Gold
- Vague Suspicions
- Cinnamon Tree
- Endangered Species
- I Know that You Know