Jazz musician Esperanza Spalding may be cooking up something pretty special for her latest tour, based on her upcoming album, “Emily’s D+ Evolution,” but don’t ask her to quantify it too much. Asked if she would say Emily is a persona for her, she counters, “I wouldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t say. I wish people could see it first and then they could talk about it.”
But she is willing to elaborate. “It’s like when you put on a play for your parents, with your friends. It’s you, obviously, but you’re playing other people. So there’s a lot of other people, beyond the characters who are passively involved in the stories of each song, but I would say that Emily’s the one who I’m pretending onstage to play. She’s a version of me through which I’m pretending.”
The album is Spalding’s first since 2012’s “Radio Music Society,” for which she won a Grammy. If you’re not familiar with her, you might remember the time she won a best new artist Grammy over Justin Bieber, and his fans were not pleased, to say the least. But with all that in the past, she’s ready to focus on her new project, which she says “will hopefully come out this year.”
She says that the Emily character (not a persona, remember) isn’t different from who she is. It is, after all, her middle name. “I was called Emily for a lot of my life by the people closest to me because no one wanted to go through the trouble of Esperanza. So it reminds me of simpler questions and simpler answers to those questions. And it reminds me of a lot of aspects of being in performing that I was curious about until that kind of fell by the wayside to becoming an evolved human being, an evolved adult.”
And don’t expect too many old standards during this show, though she hasn’t totally dropped her earlier work. “I do a lot of gigs still with all kinds of repertoire from previous projects, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m leaving it aside. It’s like if you were on a TV series and then you did a play. It’s like not really walking away from anything or leaving anything but I’m excited for all the new frontiers in this direction. It’s challenging for me and it’s new for me.”
Asked if she thinks about a sense of responsibility, since she might be some people's entry point into jazz, she quickly demurs. "No, that just happened because a lot of my stuff isn’t very jazzy, and I was younger and prettier than other artists, and we live in this beauty-centric, youth-centric culture. Young people are used to being fed that information through that medium of young and beautiful."
She goes on to explain, "I’m saying that because there are so many not-young, pretty musicians who don’t get the title of 'bringing this music to young people' that are beloved by lots of young jazz lovers. Some people say that about me and I appreciate why they do. Part of the reason unfortunately that young people who aren’t into jazz like my music is probably because a lot of it doesn’t really sound like jazz. But maybe if they would follow me into the realms of my life that are very jazz-based, they’d get exposed to some more real jazz. But maybe not."