Esperanza Spalding And The White House House Band

Esperanza Spalding


Esperanza Spalding played the White House on May 12, 2009 for the second time this year. Photo Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Last summer President Barack Obama famously revealed he had John Coltrane and Miles Davis on his iPod. So it seemed just a matter of time before a crisp ride cymbal pulsing in swing time would be heard within the White House.

This past Tuesday the Obamas hosted an evening of jazz and spoken word performances. Among invited performers were jazz musicians Esperanza Spalding (NPR Music archive) and pianist Eric Lewis.

Spalding should leave her bass in a closet there and start a House band (capital H intended). In addition to her participation in last Tuesday's White House Poetry Jam, she also performed in a tribute to Stevie Wonder back in February.

Jazz at the White House has an interesting history. According to a George Washington University Web site, the first jazz gig there was on Nov. 19, 1962 by the Paul Winter Jazz Sextet (for JFK). [UPDATE: According to Elise K. Kirk's Music at the White House, swing bands were invited to perform since Roosevelt's administration, but the closest one gets to what most would call jazz now is Paul Whiteman. —Ed.] If the list of performers is to be believed, the Republican administrations were just as progressive in their jazz tastes as the Democrats.

It's been just over 100 days and the Obamas have offered more jazz concerts than George H.W. Bush (who offered no jazz concerts in his four years in office). I think it's a safe bet to count on even more East Room jazz gigs before too long.

If you were scheduling White House jazz concerts, who would you put on stage?

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