Last summer I was a fortunate spectator of the 600 in the house to witness the metamorphosis firsthand. The jazz bass prodigy had disappeared and a new face, Emily, had come in her stead.
Who, you say is Emily’s D + Evolution? Actually, that’s still to be determined. Let’s call her Esperanza’s freed alter ego. She’s Mariah Carey’s Mimi. She’s Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce. Actually, I think Emily is Esperanza Spalding with all the weight of being Esperanza, removed. She’s Esperanza, minus the responsibility that goes along with managing and orchestrating a full 10 or 12 piece band. That night, it was just Esperanza / Emily on bass, accompanied by an extraordinary guitarist and drummer, and two vocalists. That’s it. Because when I didn’t see a Leo Genovese or a Tia Fuller on sax, I began to think that perhaps tonight I may just be getting a dose of “Esperanza Lite”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Throughout the album (like her performance last year) Emily seamlessly moved from her 4-string Fender jazz bass, to her 5-string fretless without missing a beat. She does what has always boggled my mind for a bassist to be able to do; she played those two basses, held down the pocket, soloed, and sang — and was masterful at all of them. Yes I know, Meshell (Ndegeocello) sings and plays, Sting sings and plays, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, yadda yadda, but let’s face it, none of those artists are playing material with quite the complexity of what Emily is playing while they’re singing; so to compare them would be like comparing apples & oranges.
If you were fortunate enough to be around in the 70’s like I was, and witness artists like Miles or Hendrix, those guys never put on the same show twice. They were always evolving. They were never static. They were always reinventing themselves (think Hendrix “The Experience”, then think Hendrix “Band of Gypsies”; think Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”, then think Miles Davis “Bitches Brew” or “Tutu”) because their art was not static — it was a continuum. I think that’s what we’re witnessing with Esperanza / Emily.
All that being said, what I witnessed live was actually a sneak peak of her album. Not only is this new sound of hers great, she’s coming back to ATL (Center Stage to be exact) on April 22 to bless us once again with her greatness.
The album “Emily’s D+ Evolution” is a solid 9 out of 10.