Esperanza Spalding — a prodigiously-talented young jazz bassist, who, at 31, has already won four Grammy Awards — has stepped away from jazz without totally abandoning it, as evidenced by her new album, Emily’s D+Evolution. Before she plays the Bomhard Theater on Friday night, Spalding spoke with LEO by phone.
LEO: How has your jazz background developed into more of a pop, rock and funk approach to your recording?
Esperanza Spalding: I wouldn’t call it a pop or rock or funk approach. After studying classical vernacular as the pedagogy, as a language, then I discovered improvisation, and that became my language. With the language, I speak the truth in the moment. With the band, and me as the bass player, I am there to support the band. When I’m leading my own band, I use my vocabulary to say the things that I hear and tell the stories that I want to sing. Because I love a lot of music that isn’t identified as jazz, but it’s part of my identity and my aesthetic, I don’t ask too many questions.
What was the writing and recording process of Emily’s D+Evolution like?
It started in October of 2013, and I started expanding that in March and April of 2014, and we recorded it mostly in 2014, and started touring it. My performance aspect is now the meat of the project. It’s taken a lot of time to prepare for this album release. What we are going to do in Louisville will be very different from what we have done before.
How do you determine your set list?
On the album track order, I wanted the order to have an arc, energetically. But a live show, we’ve been unpacking the story. It’s the story of Emily, and her transformation. And she came here with something to find. So, to tell that story, the songs have to talk about the story, because we don’t talk in the show. It’s changed from tour to tour, how we tell the story.
Esperanza Spalding plays in the Bomhard Theater at the Kentucky Center on Friday, Oct. 21.