Esperanza beats Bieber, rejuvenates jazz

Monday, March 21, 2011 9:47
Posted in category Concert Reviews, Past Shows


Although the Grammy’s may have come and past, there is one obsession of mine that continues to last.

Many new topics have since arisen in our daily gossip. While most of us have since moved on from Lady GaGa’s egg to talk about the Academy Awards and Christina Aguilera’s drunkenness, one Grammy award does not belong in the back of our minds.

As millions watched the nominees for “Best New Artist,” most viewers were preparing themselves for the calling of Justin Bieber’s name. Some were jubilant over this idea, while others felt that same frustration that occurs when “Baby” infiltrates our local radio waves. Either way, nearly everyone was predicting his victory.

But Bieber lost to a complete stranger.

Esperanza Spalding, a jazz bassist, singer and Berklee grad, somehow beat out Bieber, Drake, Mumford & Sons and Florence + the Machine as best new artist of the year.

The reactions varied significantly. While thousands of young girls cried, trashing Spalding’s Twitter and Wikipedia pages, millions of others experienced overwhelming relief. The likelihood of a jazz artist beating out the indie, hip-hop or R&B “musicians” seemed almost impossible.

However, as Spalding accepted her Grammy, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities, that jazz could live on, that jazz could be king as it once was.

So, for the first time, I write about jazz with a feeling of hope. I hope that this comeback will become a reality and I hope that the Beiber, Usher, B.O.B. movement can be replaced with the Esperanza, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock movement. Although the understanding of jazz may only exist among the older generations right now, young figures like Esperanza give hope that jazz will continue to survive throughout the next generations.

Last week, I ventured into Downtown to spend a Tuesday night at Anthology, one of San Diego’s premier jazz clubs. I witnessed an amazing show, Chick Corea’s concert, and a duet performance with jazz legend Gary Burton.

Corea was a pioneer for the jazz fusion movement. His keyboard playing abilities are some of the best in musical history.

Gary Burton, a fellow jazz pioneer, was one of the first to fully utilize four mallets when playing the vibraphone. His skills are also impeccable.

As the second hour of the show came to an end, the duo performed their final encore in which they traded solos, desperately trying to outplay the other. Their dueling talents were amazing. If Beiber and Usher tried to do the same, their auto-tune frequencies would probably interfere with each other, resulting in a painful cacophony.

I was especially pleased to find that Chick Corea’s concert was sold out. Although the crowd was full of senior citizens, I was still delighted to find that the jazz scene has not yet died out.

Living in San Diego, we have access to some of the nicest jazz establishments in the country. Places like Dizzy’s and Anthology are intimate and classy. As a plus, screaming girls are rarely found there.

While Esperanza Spalding’s victory over Justin Bieber may not suddenly turn an entire generation toward jazz, I remain optimistic that it will help people realize where true talent can be found. Spalding could easily become one of the most influential artists of the decade, just as Louis Armstrong was a century ago. With the help of other artists who have been fighting the same battle for generations, jazz can live on.

Jazz can become king once again.