Esperanza Spalding at City Winery | Photos and review
Fluidly trading her bass guitar for a stand-up bass and back again, jazz ace Esperanza Spalding constantly sways her slender frame to her soothing music. There’s a hypnotic quality about the way she connects to the jazz. But in the beginning of the Grammy-winning singer and multi-instrumentalist’s set at City Winery Monday night, she was so engulfed in her own melodic flow, that it almost seems like the size or energy of the audience wouldn’t have mattered to her. She was going to go all out no matter what. Not surprisingly, the ascending Spalding and her 11-piece backing band packed the City Winery’s 320-seat concert space on the first of a three-night series of shows.
As the night progressed, Spalding increasingly connected with the crowd between songs in this intimate venue. Her stream-of-consciousness dialogue about relationship mishaps, etc. helped bring her fans a little closer. At one point she looked straight out at the audience and told her "kings and queens": “I know what the problem is—you can’t get up and move.” Like she says, this music is not to be taken sitting down. But with the way the tables at City Winery are packed in together, the crowd didn’t have a choice. Thus for two hours, heads moved and hands clapped as Spalding and her band played a set mostly focused on new material from her latest album, Radio Music Society. Renditions of the uplifting “Black Gold” and the lovely “Cinnamon Tree” were endlessly cool. Spalding capped off the night with an extended version of her hit “Radio Song,” which included a heavy dose of call and response that livened up the audience—and by the last few minutes, brought them to their feet. As Spalding told the crowd, “We want to be your radio.” Through shows like this and on her records, Esperanza Spalding is certainly succeeding in doing just that.