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COMPARING THE creative trajectories of jazz singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding and pop star Justin Bieber would appear slightly odd to most.But the two musicians are forever linked by 2011’s best new artist Grammy Award, when Spalding’s surprising win caused shocked Bieber fans to inundate her with a tsunami of online hate and even death threats.The irony of this ‘overnight’ fame is that Spalding never craved mainstream validation in the first place.
When that didn’t fit, she moved to and graduated from Berklee College of Music.
Upon graduation at 20, Spalding became the prestigious school’s youngest-ever instructor.
Maintaining her lifelong passion for new sounds and uncharted territory, the versatile Spalding has collaborated with musicians from different styles and genres including Prince, Corinne Bailey Rae, Bruno Mars, Wayne Shorter and Janelle Monáe.
Aged five, she was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon in her hometown of Portland.
By the time she exited the group at 15 as a concertmaster, she was composing and playing acoustic bass professionally with local bands.
The latter became the instrument most central to her work: she joined her first band, Noise for Pretend, as a bassist and vocalist the same year she left the Chamber Music Society of Oregon.
Following the group’s run, Spalding became one of the youngest bassists at Portland State University.
A bandstand-levitating bassist, Spalding has performed everywhere from the Oscars to the White House, cementing her place as a top-rate jazz star for the 21st century.
Though her career appeared to be going from strength to strength, a couple of years ago, she decided to take a step back.
“If you’re going crazy, take a break,” the musician says after taking two years off from a rapid, Grammy-stacking rise.
“I felt overwhelmed by stuff that wasn’t satisfying me.” Spalding pursued study of her first instrument, the violin, at a time when most children her age were just learning to read.