Esperanza Spalding Enthralls Jazz Fest Audience

After problems arose getting her upright bass hooked up to the sound system Thursday evening at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Esperanza Spalding could have packed it in.

Instead, the bassist, singer and songwriter shone on the Congo Square Stage as the sun went down, pouring out messages of love and respect.

The set was abbreviated about half an hour due to the technical difficulties, but Spalding slung her Fender Jazz Bass over her shoulder and offered a 50-minute performance that enthralled the crowd.

Winning a 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Spalding’s special blend of funk and jazz was on display in an assortment of tracks from her fourth album, Radio Music Society.

Early in the set, Spalding was forced to abandon her upright bass for a song about her hometown – Portland, Ore. – called “City of Roses.” Although noting she’d never before played it on her electric, Spalding returned to her Fender Jazz Bass without missing a beat.

While there was no doubt that she was disappointed in her loss of equipment, calling both instruments her “voices” and “friends, Spalding continued to stand majestically onstage with a flowing sea foam and cream gown that was kissed with gold and purple accents.

Spalding continued on with composure, bringing out the immensely-catchy “Radio Song,” the hit single “Black Gold” and sultry “Cinnamon Tree.”

Spalding was backed by her tremendous 12-piece band, Radio Music Society, which featured Chris Turner on tremendously supportive backing vocals, and some serious work on the alto saxophone by musical director Tia Fuller.

The fans had to wait a while for the show to start, and there was no doubt they were getting antsy.

But judging by the amount of people grooving along to the music, Spalding made that wait worth it.


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