There are quirks or character traits that we as people, for whatever reason, suppress. A small part of us wants to be known for being loud, outspoken, and blunt. Some of us never want that part of ourselves to see the light of day, but if you are intent on meeting your alter ego, try Esperanza Spalding’s new record, “Emily’s D+Evolution.”
Known most widely as the jazz-goddess whose synchronized bass/vocal solos make older musicians self-conscious of their own abilities, Spalding is literally making a new name for herself on the album, assuming a stage character with her alternate personality, Emily. Like discovering her alter ego, Spalding’s distinct sound abandons its jazz foundation and veers aggressively toward alternative rock.
The first track and featured single “Good Lava” explodes with a flurry of Hendrix-chords and smooth vocal lines that lead to a grandiose chorus.
Spalding’s lineup is integral to the album’s theatricality. Consisting of a few background singers and a rock trio (bass, drums, and guitar), the band is equally vital in transmitting the record’s message. Last June when Sparling toured with the band, she and her fellow musicians languidly crawled onto the Fine Line stage to assume their positions, eventually breaking out in an a cappella chant about what sounded like anti-classist rhetoric. Serving as an intro to the song “Ebony and Ivy,” they soon settled into a funky, dissonant groove reminiscent of their underlying jazz influence.
“Emily’s D+Evolution” explores the idea of learning and evolving from different versions of ourselves. Much like her change in character and genre, Spalding illustrates a transformative experience in this concept album, expressing traits and styles that exist deep within her.