Esperanza Spalding and Madeleine Peyrou – Austin City Limits (2010)

Hello my (d)ear friends. Here I am again, although where I went I couldn’t say. This is as close to an explanatory post as I can get. There must also be plans for the future outlined, so bear with me, I promise I won’t make it too long and tedious. But first, and foremost, always – the music.

I figured, after so much time, I couldn’t care less if it’s Saturday or not, so I’m going to go with a concert for today. Actually, it’s a two in one, because, in spite of the title of the performance, the two musicians involved do not play together in this, merely following each-other on stage. This makes sense – their styles are very different indeed and I’m not sure they would’ve meshed just right had they decided to jam. As it is, however, the succession works very well, forming a jazzy feast, with excitement and refinement galore.

Esperanza Spalding is a new discovery for me. The Hiromi reference before was not by accident, as she does remind me of the Japanese pianist’s furious energy and playful approach to jazz standards, on the one hand, and jazz as a whole, on the other. She’s a very talented vocal performer, but her main selling point for me is the remarkable prowess she displays on the double-bass and bass. “Wild as the wind” (around the 17 minute mark in the video) is presented in this concert, for example, in probably one of the most chilling renditions I have ever heard, and it’s mostly because of her use of the double-bass in a boldly classical (don’t miss the subtle meta-tribute to Nina Simone here, who would pepper her performances with forays into classical music) fashion. And then the voice, just as powerful and crisp as the song demands, decidedly avoiding the self-indulgence which is such a powerful lure for many jazz musicians… And there’s the gist of it – Esperanza Spalding doesn’t identify herself as a jazz singer; sometimes these attempts at influencing labels by the artists being labeled put me off, but this time I think she’s right. Hers is new music, and that’s all there is to it. Bottom line, this performance has turned me instantly into a great admirer, and I hope it does the same for you.

Now on to Madeleine Peyrou – I was acquainted with her dry, precise, smoky vocal style some years ago, and it’s stayed with me ever since, albeit not in the very foreground of my playlist, but always there, as a welcoming place to return to every time the experimentation got a bit much. Not to imply that her music is comfortable as a bedroom slipper. What I’m talking about here is a difference of philosophy which will become crystal clear as you listen to this concert. Madeleine Peyrou doesn’t play jazz, but it’s there, in between the lines. (If you ask me, Billie Holiday didn’t play jazz either, it was just… free blues, if you will, but hey, tomato/tomahto.) It’s nurturing, welcoming music, conversational in a close friend sort of way – not avoiding argument, but handling it with a twinkle in the eye and much grace. It’s touched by a sort of French atmosphere (accordion, mandolin and French lyrics notwithstanding, if you can believe that), a bon-viveur sort of nonchalance, terribly seductive and, well, healthy, I would say. So, after a bit of modern tumult, Madeleine Peyrou’s velvety vintage vocals provide the perfect change in pace, turning this into a wonderfully balanced concert. Enjoy!

Now for the plans and explanations. I started this blog with the desire to speak of the albums and performances which inspire me over and over, which give me goosebumps and leave me speechless for spans of time ranging from minutes to days (yes, days). Somewhere along the way I started feeling like I was about to start compromising a bit, for the sake of keeping the blog updated constantly. I hadn’t done that when I stopped writing, a few months ago, but had I continued then, at the same pace, I would have eventually ended up writing about albums I merely liked, instead of truly being passionate about. I was afraid of a certain deleterious inertia, so I just stopped for a while. I’m back now, but there must be a few changes. I won’t be updating daily anymore – I simply don’t want to circle the same trap again. Music is my favorite foreign language, but there’s only so much I can absorb and confirm to myself before I get tired. That means I will update twice a week from now on. One post will be an album review, just as before. The other post I reserve for a bit of play – it can be a concert review, it can be a top, it can be an invitation to talk in some ingenious way yet to be determined, or, why not, it might even end up being a review of something disappointing. I want to have as much fun writing this blog as I hope you’re having reading it, and for that purpose, I won’t let it become too restrictive anymore. I sincerely hope I’ve got you wonderful readers on my side for these tweaks. Thank you very much for sticking with me for so long! See you later this week, with a proper album review!

 

2 thoughts on “Esperanza Spalding and Madeleine Peyrou – Austin City Limits (2010)

  1. Hell yeah! 😀 Really love the music and, as you already know, concerning the general contents of your blog, I have been confronted with the same issues so I totally get the changes. As long as you keep writing and I can keep listening and reading, this will all be fantastic. Here’s to “Now Playing’s” near anniversary and its future rich and happy life :))

  2. Happy for your return and also for the changes, now I won’t feel so guilty for having to catch up once/twice a week with so many posts! Also, kudos on the use of ‘deleterious’ 🙂

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