Esperanza Spalding — the multiple Grammy-winning bassist, singer-songwriter, bandleader and composer — maintains a fierce commitment to the unfolding moment. Spontaneity is her watchword and her discipline, the condition to which she aspires.
For this, among other reasons, Spalding has always been an artist best experienced live, despite the airtight musicianship on each of her five studio albums. She's also the most naturally media-savvy performer that jazz has produced in this century: a brand ambassador, a cultural avatar, a platinum-grade collaborator. All of which sets the stage for "Exposure," an ambitious project she's embarking on this week.
Part marathon recording session, part performance-art "Happening," the project finds Spalding in a Los Angeles studio for 77 hours, creating what will be her next album for the Concord label. By design, there was no premeditation here — Spalding has chosen to create everything, including the compositions and arrangements, live in the studio with collaborators including the singer Lalah Hathaway, the keyboardist Robert Glasper, and the violinist and singer-songwriter Andrew Bird.
Every moment, including breaks for sleep and sustenance, will be broadcast via Facebook Live, adding a layer of reality-TV voyeurism to the situation (without the drama of musicians being voted off the island). But unlike, say, the corporate-sponsored house arrest preceding the release of Katy Perry's Witness, this gimmick was imposed with a creative end goal in mind.
"Knowing someone is watching and listening to what you're making seems to conjure up a sort of 'can't fail' energy," Spalding said in a statement on her website. "The necessity to keep going because it's live draws up another depth of creative facility that can't be reached when you know you can try again tomorrow."
You can watch every moment of "Exposure" in the window above — and follow Jazz Night in America on Facebook and Twitter for some running commentary. After the session is over, Spalding will sift through her footage and produce an album, also titled Exposure, which will be released on CD in a limited edition of 7,777 through her website.