You lean on a divider separating the crowd from the stage in front of you. Upon the stage sit a drum kit, keyboards, a rack of guitars, and an upright bass next to the solitary microphone, all sparkling with vivid color reflected from the spotlights above. Surrounding the instruments are a plethora of decorative floral arrangements, sculptures, and more colored lights. The room is cast in darkness, and filled with cheers. The band steps on stage, and they play . . .
Once in a blue moon, an artist comes along possessing a persona, inherent or conceived, that demands to be noticed. They often emerge in the form of powerful vocalists, highly proficient musicians, or songwriters with penchants for fresh innovation and genre-bending. More rare still, an artist that is all three of these things. Emily’s D+Evolution is the newest full-length from Portland native Esperanza Spalding.
Spalding = anomaly; a world-class upright bassist, and a singer with awe-inspiring charisma. Her band — comprised of producer/drummer Karriem Riggins, guitarist Matthew Stevens, and others — move elegantly through intricate compositions resembling funk, folk, jazz, prog rock, soul, and even musical theatre, without wholly committing to any single genre, while the dominant element is Spalding’s stunning voice.
The record title refers to Emily, Spalding’s middle name and a character she created to enhance her more extroverted qualities. She sees it as her duty to serve as the “arms and ears and voice and body” for the persona, and to project the character’s messages: “fight the system”, “find your spiritual center”, “promote peace”. It’s my favorite release of the year, so far. If you’re seeking charismatic, versatile soul, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)