Last fall, Chicago Tribune art critic Howard Reich asked the question: Can Esperanza Spalding draw a new audience to jazz?
OK Mozart hopes the answer is “yes,” and that the Grammy Award-winning musician can reel in guests to its week of fanfare and music. The 28th annual international festival presents the vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer in four different experiences – a chance for many to see why the world thinks so highly of Spalding.
At 27, Spalding has already lived a rich life as a teenage jazz club musician, as a college instructor at Berklee College of Music in Boston and a highly-sought recording artist. Influences from Bach, the diversity of her hometown of Portland, Ore., and a variety of musical genres create a complex sound you enter through two doors.
Spalding’s Chamber Music Society (2011’s best-selling contemporary jazz album) is a sophisticated ode to William Blake poetry from a string ensemble, vocals and percussion. Her recent Radio Music Society showcases jazz artists through an accessible selection of original compositions and covers, such as the Beach Boys, ready for radio play.
Whether she’s balancing a bass or cradling a guitar, Spalding is that refreshing, unexpected element in jazz that fans have been waiting to hear. And OK Mozart has her for both its main stages in Bartlesville and its Oklahoma City Series performances.
Spalding performs in the festival’s first big show on June 9 at the Bartlesville Community Center, sharing the stage with Grammy winning jazz artists Terri Lyne Carrington, who collaborated with Spalding on Carrington’s Mosaic Project album, and Geri Allen. Then it goes to Oklahoma City University for a matinee on June 10.
Spalding helps close out OK Mozart’s 2012 season at the Grand Finale Concert with the Amici New York Orchestra and Kyle Dillingham on June 16 at the Bartlesville Community Center. The grand finale repeats June 17 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall. www.okmozart.com