Esperanza who? Grammy’s Best New Artist (and more)

Best New Artist of the Year, according to the Grammys, is Esperanza Spalding, a 26-year-old jazz bassist and singer whose most recent album is titled Chamber Music Society. What!? or should the question be, How?! Full congrats, she’s as bright a rising star as has emerged from jazz by virtue of her charm and chops since 2006 — when Junjo, her first CD, was released. She beat out some kid named Justin Bieber, whose fans are enraged.

I have no insight into how this happened, although perhaps Bieber, the odds-on favorite, was done in by touch competition from Drake (rapper-crooner), Florence and the Machine (British pop/rock singer whose recordings are described as “musically mature and emotionally mesmerizing by, which I won’t link to because it won’t let you come back to me) and Mumford & Sons (alt.rockers with country roots), none of whom I’ve heard of. Which shows how out of it I am.

Esperanza may not be a convention-destroying genius, but she’s one daring and forthright young woman who plays bass plenty well enough to hold the chair in tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano’s estimable, uncompromising Us Five group (check out their latest, Bird Songs). Bieber, on the other hand, is just huge, on the basis of . . . how he sings, dancers and appears for instance in this video below, saved (maybe) from being absolutely ludicrous (in the mind of the typical adult) by Ludacris.

It’s hard not to gloat about talent winning out. Of course, Bieber is crying all the way to the bank. On the other hand, Spalding may have a longer and more interesting career. Here’s hoping. . .
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  1. says

    Hey Howard
    As you well know, this is not a fan vote. This is an election by the industry. So, it was to a great extent musicians – many of whom are technically knowledgeable – voting. They expressed the wisdom of their knowledge and experience.
    I just looked – again- at the complete list of winners, Justin Bieber was completely shut out.
    HM: I’m not sure what percentage of NARAS voters are artists, what percentage music “industry” employees/administrators/etc. Here’s an interesting article from Slate on the nominating process:
    In the New York Times today, Nate Chinen speculates that the Canadian, r&b influenced Drake and Bieber may have split one voting group, and the British, semi-retro Mumford & Sons and Florence and the Machine may have split another, thus allowing Esperanza’s votes to emerge as the most. Also, he acknowledges that old fashioned virtuosity and youth paying homage to it is favored by NARAS members. Whyever she won, I hope more people will give Esperanza a listen. Many people will like what they hear and get a new impression of what’s considered “jazz.”