Esperanza Spalding Feature in Newsweek

Esperanza Spalding! I have made my admiration for this beautiful, talented lady a recurrent theme here on thejazzmonger blog. Now, I am pleased to report that she is the subject of an excellent article in Newsweek and it’s affiliate The Daily Beast.

Abigail Pesta’s piece begins, as most Spalding features do, with the singular nature of her talent and intelligence:

 As a 5-year-old, she began playing in a community band; by the time she was 15, she was the concertmaster for an Oregon youth orchestra, with a scholarship to a private arts high school. At 20, she graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Pesta doesn’t mention it, but Spalding was, by age 19, not only a student at Berklee but also on the faculty.

Esperanza Spalding at Oscars

Jazz Talent Esperanza Spalding

The hard-working credential is well-earned, many times over. Beginning in childhood, she learned to play the piano, clarinet and oboe before discovering the stand-up bass in high school. When asked why she now plays bass, almost exclusively, Esperanza says that the instrument “just resonates” with her.

Pesta goes on to highlight the difficult circumstances in which Spalding lived as a child. She grew up in the King neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Esperanza has described it as “a ghetto” and “pretty scary.” She and her brother were raised by her mother as a single parent. And yet, Pesta tells us:

She downplays her gritty childhood. Growing up poor isn’t a “special” story, she says, but an American one. “Where I’m from is a really mild example. I mean, I’m sure my whole life we were under the poverty line, you know, but I still felt rich. I had a rich upbringing, rich in the sense of a lot of love, a lot of education, nature, music and art, and laughing.” She adds, “It’s not just about the income you make.”

Listen to that last part again, if you will indulge me, because it is the point of today’s visit to the keyboard:

“I had a rich upbringing, rich in the sense of a lot of love, a lot of education, nature, music and art, and laughing.” She adds, “It’s not just about the income you make.”

Esperanza Spalding

The Errant Aesthete on Karen von Blixen

Karen von Blixen (aka authoress Isak Dinesen) is one of those women whom one loves from afar. Afar both in distance and in time. What a woman! I love this artful post. It is as elegantly done as subject’s life.

The Errant Æsthete

I had
a farm
in Africa,
at the foot
of the
Ngong Hills.

 

Today is the birthday of the incomparable Isak Dinesen. Wife of the boorish and syphilitic Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke and lover of the mercurial adventurer and big game hunter, Denys Finch Hatton; Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962), née Dinesen, was a Danish author also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen. Blixen wrote works both in Danish and in English; but is best known for Out of Africa, her account of living in Kenya, [TEA NOTE: a book as magical and luminous as the African moon over her farm] and for her story,Babette’s Feast, both of which were adapted into highly acclaimed motion pictures. Dinesen’s short story writing was influenced by the stories of the Arabian nights, Aesop’s Fables, the works of Homer, and the fairy…

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David Foster, Andrea Bocelli & Katharine McPhee Live!

Music, well-played and well-sung, is always better in live performance. But, when you can’t be there for the live gig, a great recording of a live performance can be a real treat. And when you are lucky enough to collect some of the primal forces of good music, you are in for something memorable.

On May 23, 2008, the protean music man David Foster created a once-in-a-lifetime concert that showcased many of his hits and a few of the stars whose careers Foster launched. The finale was one of those peak moments, the kind I like to re-visit over-and-over.

The song, The Prayer, was composed and written by David Foster and the beautiful, and oh so talented, Carol Bayer Sager. Foster was at the piano, and in command of a magnificent orchestra.

Carol Bayer Sager

Award-winning songwriter Carol Bayer Sager

Collaborating in a perfect duet were Andrea Bocelli and a young Katharine McPhee. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard some of the sniffing and griping from a few fat old operatic tenors about Bocelli being more of a popular music singer than a classical singer. Have another cannoli, guys, and let Andrea have room to do his thing. I like it! I love his passion, his joy and his voice.

The pairing with McPhee was wonderful. She is young and beautiful and has terrific set of pipes. She didn’t let herself be intimidated by Bocelli’s reputation, or his voice. She was no trembling rookie on this night. She let it loose and was right there with him, every step of the way, in English and Italian. Well, she was with him until the last 10 seconds on the final note but, c’mon. It is just delightful!

Also, it never hurts to have long-legged, long-haired beauty in the number. You’ll see what I mean.

And you can purchase a CD/DVD combination package of this remarkable concert from the good folks at PBS. Go right here:

Hitman: David Foster & Friends

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