Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Emily’s D+Evolution : Sheperds Bush Empire 2/11/2015

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Emily’s D+Evolution, is the inner brainchild of bass supremo and artist extraordinaire,Esperanza Spalding.Emily is her middle name and the D+ refers to the fallacy of the educational grading system. Spalding with four Grammy's under her belt,is still pushing the experimental boat out reconnecting with her earlier passion in theatre,poetry and movement.Tonight saw all of this come into play. Right from the off her gleeful demeanour took precedent as Act 1 unfolded with a mish mash of mediums,not so much showtime but playtime!

It's a stripped back affair mainly operating as a power trio (inspired
by watching Cream footage in rehearsals) and with those oversized joke shop glasses on,her persona weaves its own particular magic.Our Emily does however, look like a cross between a young cornrow braided Whoopi Goldberg and Velma from Scooby -Doo and when her impish goblin side comes out, she's like an eager kid at halloween!But don't let this distract you from the music,which is sparse,dynamic fierce and highly evolved.She doesnt use conventional chords sequences (except on one or at most two songs) it's decidedly groove based yes,but she'll drop it down to just vocals and bass at a drop of a hat...her melodies are sophisticated and with two other backing vocalists-it's sumptuously rich.Her guitarist,Matt Stevens is her secret weapon and when she lets him off the leash he goes into hyperspace not in that traditional cock rock cliche mode, (though he does employ those stadium sounds) but a highly 'out' sound reminiscent of Bill Frisell and a touch of Scofield. He builds his long serpentine solos incredibly well and is tour de force just like his mistress who underpins the whole show with that heavy bass of hers.Interesting to note she herself, doesn't take any bass solos, perhaps it's a conscious thing,she wants us to stay well within her madcap's as if a solo would break the spell.

 This project seems to appear as something of a break from herself and since she's been hard at since the age of 4 you can't really blame the lass.A change is as good as a rest so they say. She has packed alot in since being the concertmaster for Portland's Chamber Music Society in Oregon when she was fifteen, and the youngest ever teacher at Berklee College of Music, where she received her formidable jazz knowledge and training, by the time she reached  twenty and then,leading her own bands and penning four albums which included the exceptional'Chamber Music Society' and 'Radio Music' but then to cap it all becoming the scourge of adolescent pre teen fans of Justin Bieber by beating him to the post for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011,Way to go girl!

Higlights of the show were many especially the 'Ugly Betty' faces she kept pulling and 'One' the current single, was simply enthralling,literally spellbinding the audience who couldn't take their eyes off her.'Unconditional Love' blew the place apart as Stevens' guitar took sonic flight (I think it's still trying to land somewhere....) And the militaristic drum groove of I 'Want It Now' from Willy Wonka
And The Chocolate Factory was the icing on the cake.Spalding is having her second childhood which begs the question: what, after all, is a grown-up? Emily definately is in Wonderland and is the woman with the child in her eyes and that's that!Oh,and the signature thunderous bass just kept rolling well into the night..
Gig of the year? It's a toss up between her and Snarky Puppy.
Words Emrys Baird

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