23 de janeiro de 2009

Esperanza Spalding: "O Português faz parte da minha identidade musical"


Esperanza Spalding, cantora e contrabaixista revelação, actua no próximo dia 1 de Fevereiro no Centro Cultural de Belém, naquele que é um concerto bastante aguardado. JNPDI entrevistou-a e ficou a saber, por exemplo, que entre os seus músicos favoritos se encontram Maria João e Mário Laginha e que do seu círculo de amigos fazem parte Paula Sousa, Sara Serpa e André Matos.

JNPDI: Who is Esperanza Spalding personally and musically and what can jazz audiences expect from you?

Esperanza Spalding: That would be a very complicated answer if I thoroughly went into it here! But, briefly, I am an upbeat enthusiastic silly loving serious person...and that is what transmits through the music. Our performances are very energetic and fun. We like to show off our chops, but we also make sure the audience has a good time.

JNPDI: You have said many times that listening to Yo Yo Ma was a turning point in your life and in becoming a musician, a self taught musician. How did you go from the violin to the bass?

ES: Later in my life as a violinist I did get instruction. So, I was able to assimilate what a teacher was showing me. Shortly after I started playing bass, I was blessed to meet and study with an incredible classical bassist, who really got my technique and facility together from the beginning. Now, when I study on my own, I am always conscious of the basic things he taught me about technique, so I assimilate new information with that same foundation. And, for me right away I felt more able and more free on bass, so I was more inspired in general to practice...

JNPDI: Who were your references on the bass by then?

ES: When I was young, I loved Leroy Vinnegar and Slam Stewart... I wasn't SO into studying bassists to be honest. I would get more excited by the bands as a whole. I used to listen to Stan Kenton big band a lot and I loved Eddie Harris, and my FAVORITE was Miles Davis's Kind of Blue...those were really the musicians at the VERY beginning that had the biggest impact on my desire to play and inspired me the most.

JNPDI: At what age did you find out you could sing too?

ES: I used to sing informally at home when I would write songs. But, I was first asked to sing and play bass in a band when I was 15. I started with the group "Noise For Pretend" and I kept developing the voice to help me learn jazz songs... Then, in college, I would write songs that had arrangements for three horns and I would sing one of the voices... When I realized what a powerful tool the voice was to connect with audiences I really started studying how to be a singer in the sense of a front woman.

JNPDI: Who do you admire as singers?

ES: Michael Brecker and Wayne Shorter are some of my favorites... They really SING! But, I also love Stevie Wonder, Betty Carter, Minnie Ripperton, Dakota Staton, Sheryl Crow, Prince, umm Liliana Herrero, Maria João, Milton Nascimento, Donny Hathaway...ummm there are SO many...


JNPDI: In your latest CD you sing in English, Spanish and Portuguese. I amof course particularly interested by this last idiom you use so correctly: where and how did you learn it and what do you think it's the richness of Portuguese as a singing language?

ES: Well, it isn't for me the language alone that makes it so rich. It is also the way that the melodies written for Portuguese lyrics are shaped. A song like “Ponta De Areia”, for instance, is perfectly balanced with the shape of the words... and the vowels and dipthongs, consonants, and inflection of Portuguese are so melodic in and of themselves, that it emphasizes in a much stronger way than English the melodic components. I learned Portuguese to visit Brazil when I was 19, and I also studied many songs in Portuguese to understand the poetry better.

JNPDI: What's the concept behind this multi-lingual CD?

ES: Simply to introduce in all the aspects of my musical personality. So, I wanted to contain with the CD as many sides of me as possible... And, of course Spanish and Portuguese are a part of my musical identity, so there you find them.

JNPDI: How is the world reacting to it?

ES: So far so GOOD!

JNPDI: It is only your second CD but it finds you on the main jazz media and amidst a busy international tour. Are you still on the stage you have to pinch yourself to believe that all this is really happening or have you already gotten used to it?

ES: I have always been able to thrive in any situation. So, I am taking all of this as only a new experience, or phase in my life. I am delving in and making the most of it, and hoping that it is just the beginning. It is very real to me, and every night when we play for larger and larger audiences, I am studying how to make sure that we meet each new experience with 110% of our ability, and effectiveness to deliver our music.

JNPDI: I suppose many jazz lovers have one common question in their minds: how hard is it to sing and play the bass at the same time?

ES: I don't know. I am used to it... I think it is very similar to playing piano... Pianists really have to split their brains to solo, and comp, and play bass lines, and for me it feels the same. The instrument is me, my body and my mind, and the bass and voice feel like two extensions of the same instrument...

JNPDI: Do you expect in the near future just to play the bass or sing?

ES: No, not at all...


JNPDI: Who are the musicians that will play with you in Lisbon? I mean Leo Genovese, Ricardo Vogt and Otis Brown.

ES: Our pianist Leo Genovese and I have been playing for 5 years or so now. We met at Berklee, and I always wanted him in my band. He is also the pianist on the record. Ricardo Vogt I met at Berklee, and when I realized I wanted a fourth voice, he was the first person I thought of on guitar because he sings as well. And, Otis Brown on drums, I met while playing with Joe Lovano. He is one of the top drummers on the scene right now...

JNPDI: I believe this is not your first time in Portugal, right?

ES: it is the 3rd time. I spent a week in Lisbon once to visit a good friend some years back, and I also have a dear friend, musician Paula Sousa, who I came to do some gigs with a couple of years ago. I stayed with her for a week in Lisbon in 2004.

JNPDI: So you know some Portuguese musicians and singers…

ES: OF COURSE! Maria João and Mário Laginha are two of my favorites! And, I also dig Mariza, and two of my favorites who I also happen to be friends with are Sara Serpa (amazing singer!!!) and André Matos a great guitarist.

JNPDI: What hopes do you have for the Obama presidency?

ES: I am SO proud that we elected Obama, but no man alone can solve the multi-faceted problems facing our country, and therefore the world. What I hope for the country as a whole, is that the politicians of our nation (Obama included of course) improve our international strategy to become more peaceful, and that particularly Obama follows through on his promises to improve our environmental regulations and social services...

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