"What I know I do not want to do anymore is stand in front of a microphone and make a preordained list of songs," said bassist / singer / songwriter Esperanza Spalding at JazzTimes earlier this year. "This format just does not inspire me anymore." Still, it's all about his 12 Little Spells tour.
Spalding explained that the new album was his farewell to a song-oriented performance, and that the Saturday night concert at the Lincoln Theater raised the stakes. The program lists not only the songs, but also the designers of lighting, scenography, costumes and projection; a choreographer; and a director. The music was heavily arranged and light on improvised solos.
With all this production, Spalding has remarkably done very little. She was wearing a suit, a flowing orange dress with a diamond cutout. She was standing on a draped circular dais and was spending a lot of time swinging around and shaking her arms, or sashaying on her steps – with the notable exception of "The Longing Deep Down," when she slipped around the edge of the stage. and crowned several repetitions of the phrase "deepest" by jumping and crawling under the drape. Neither the lighting nor the projection (on a round screen and similar to a projector hanging over the stage) were particularly inventive.
The music was excellently played – better than on the album, in fact. Guitarist Matthew Stevens, keyboardist / bassist / tenor saxophonist Morgan Guerin and drummer Justin Tyson played without the orchestrations of the disc (which alarmingly distort the musical production of the early 1980s) are retained. But the music had trouble connecting. Airs such as "To Tide Us Over" and "Now Know" were presented as pop songs, but with complex and chromatic harmonies and complicated, hard-to-access melodies. The lyrics were poetic but abstruse (an excerpt from "Now Know": "Whoever you are half-half / Get full / At the edge of your crystal"), further away from the audience. The presence-cum-absence of production has only worsened remoteness.
But after matching the album, "With Others" (on which she finally took a bass solo), Spalding reappeared with a white combination (the negative of the green-gray combinations of her band) and her bass five-string electric. a half-hour final transcendent. She turned her "Swimming Toward the Black Dot" into a funk-rock training, followed by an aggressive polyrhythmic rendition of Wayne Shorter's "Endangered Species" in honor of Shorter's # 39; s Kennedy Center Honors, and ended with an unequivocal energetic performance of 12 small spells, "You Must Dance" – on which she acted, as well as members of the audience who let themselves go down the aisles. It was the connection we all needed. Even with that, though, it was an oddly unsatisfactory evening. Spalding may have wanted to demonstrate that the format of the song set no longer inspires him. If that is the case, mission accomplished.