In todays music world, Esperanza Spalding is an enigma. For one, the 24-year-old musical prodigy plays upright bass, quite the rarity for the male-dominated instrument. The Portland, Oregon-raised, Berklee-schooled instrumentalist/composer/vocalist also sings while playing, and who can you name that does the same? But wait, theres more. Spalding doles out her vocal chops in three languages English, Portuguese, and Spanish dusting some tunes with an Erykah Badu-like timbre, others as if she was opening for Ella Fitzgerald in the 1950s. But wait, theres seriously more. The tunes are composed, written, and arranged by the prodigy in a distinctive, traditional-vocal-jazz-meets-new-jazz style that you wouldnt dare turn a deaf ear to.
To see why were fussing so hard about Spalding, check out the do-everything rising star when she performs a cabaret-style concert with a quartet that includes Leo Genovese on piano, guitarist Ricardo Vogt, and drummer Otis Brown at the newly dolled-up atrium at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.