“I just want to say, if you’re going crazy, take a break,” says Esperanza Spalding
Whether you want to see it as devolution and evolution, and the place where they co-exist without one diminishing the other, or…barely having the tools that you need, but having to move forward, and having to keep moving,” Spalding explained to NPR in a recent interview, the album conceptually addresses the always exciting, sometimes messy process of reconciling the aspects of our selves that are in conflict.
Seven collaborative and five solo albums into her career at 31, Esperanza Spalding has always resolutely, intuitively, deftly expanded upon both her art and herself as a genre- bending composer, bassist and vocalist. Spalding’s work, grounded in jazz traditions, has won her four Grammy awards and brought her onstage at the Oscars, the Nobel Prize Ceremony, the White House, and with Prince and Herbie Hancock.
Spalding took a couple of years out “things I was supposed to do for my career. I stopped and said, ‘Let me get back to the basics.’ I had no plans for the future — until I heard the knock on the door from Emily.”
Emily is what Spalding was called as a kid; it’s her middle name. “I’m the instrument Emily’s playing,” she says. Whether alter ego or nickname, “Emily” is the protagonist for Emily’s D+Evolution, a concept album centred on a new identity and a new sound: experimental rock, filled with noisy guitars and manic singing. “I wouldn’t call it ‘prog,’ but you can,” she says. “Somebody got mad and said it sounds like acid jazz — I don’t care.”
Armed with the entity of Emily flowing through her, Spalding’s performance of the album is an integral part of the project itself. Here, Spalding is incorporating stage design, movement and acting into her musical storytelling practice to manifest her concepts physically now that they’ve come to life aurally.
“Emily’s D+Evolution is more than a recording project, it’s an awakening of her inner child. It’s an audio portrait stretching Spalding beyond music and into storytelling through acting, staging, and movement.”–Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls
The elastic self and work is always changing; ideas are channeled, shape-shifting becomes necessary. Emily’s D+Evolution (pronounced “d plus evolution”) is where we meet Emily–both Esperanza’s middle name and the label for the spirit- muse that flows through this multi-dimensional, theatrical performance artwork.
“Creativity is a magic ingredient you can find to harness whatever it is that’s bursting out of you. You can’t push that back inside. The energy is there. Creativity is the tool that we all are endowed with. It’s like a muscle that you can practice. That lava has to come out. The question is what do you do with it?”