Esperanza Spalding: Tiny Desk Concert The bassist and vocalist conceived of Chamber Music Society as an intimate experience, a close musical exchange between a small group of friends. If it was intimacy she wanted, she got her wish: Performing three songs in the constraints of Bob Boilen's workspace ensures that all of her supporting players were nice and cozy.

Tiny Desk

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130263930/130277652" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Esperanza Spalding has phenomenal hair. If you meet her in her street clothes, you may not notice it; she keeps it tucked inconspicuously away, miraculously to be honest, under a knit cap. But right before she took the "stage" at NPR Music's Tiny Desk, she doffed her piece to unveil a massive, overflowing 'fro. More than one of us wondered from which secret hiding place it all emanated.

Spalding stows a lot of talent in small packages. She's not a very tall person — diminutive, really — but has made a career of playing the imposing double bass with jazz giants. She sings, too, with a high-pitched but husky flavor, making it easy to wonder how she generates the lung capacity for her acrobatic, high-wire feats. For reference, spend time with the middle tune here, the standard "Midnight Sun." She goes at it solo, just bass and voice, and generates plenty of horsepower.

But it's not sheer musical talent that makes her a winning (and bread-winning) performer — after all, there are plenty of chops to go around in jazz. Spalding has a certain poise, a way of engaging a crowd, of controlling a room. It's usually seen as a large-scale projection, a friendly demeanor greeting a festival or performing arts center crowd of thousands. In this most awkwardly cramped of stages, her deep conviction was a dominant force.

For her Tiny Desk Concert, she mostly called original tunes from Chamber Music Society, her new album pairing a jazz rhythm section with a three-piece string trio. The two tunes bookending her set alternated the gossamer with the rich and darkly hued: the album opener "Little Fly," her setting of a William Blake poem, and "Apple Blossom," featuring her regular guitarist, Ricardo Vogt.

Spalding conceived of Chamber Music Society as an intimate experience, a close musical exchange between a small group of friends. If it was intimacy she wanted, she got her wish: The constraints of Bob Boilen's workspace ensured that all the players were nice and cozy. We liked what she had in mind.

Set List

  • "Little Fly"
  • "Midnight Sun"
  • "Apple Blossom"
[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

The Nate Smith Band performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Sept. 14, 2017. (Christina Ascani/NPR) Christina Ascani/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Christina Ascani/NPR

Review

Tiny Desk

Nate Smith + KINFOLK

The drums take center stage at this Tiny Desk. Watch veteran jazz percussionist Nate Smith dazzle the NPR audience in a transfixing performance.

Jason Isbell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 30, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Jason Isbell

The Alabama singer-songwriter and his band perform three songs from The Nashville Sound, but their set includes a few surprises, too.

ALA.NI performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR

ALA.NI

ALA.NI captures and conveys a reverent love of early-20th-century music, while injecting those sounds with charisma and charm well suited for any era.

Maggie Rogers performs a Tiny Desk concert at NPR headquarters. Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Maggie Rogers

The rising pop star performs three of her best-known songs, including a sweet solo take on her career-making "Alaska."

Aldous Harding performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 6, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Aldous Harding

Intensity in songs often expresses itself as volume – a loud guitar, a scream, a piercing synth line. But in the case of Aldous Harding it's in the spaces, the pauses, and her unique delivery.

James Mercer of The Shins performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 19, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

The Shins

James Mercer, the emotional and creative heart of The Shins, gives a moving performance at the Tiny Desk, with two new songs and a classic from the band's 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow.

Albin Lee Meldau performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 12, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Albin Lee Meldau

Albin Lee Meldau possesses a thunderous, deeply affecting voice, which he uses to tell some utterly dark, but demonstrably cathartic, tales.

Rare Essence performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 9, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Rare Essence

Rare Essence has been bringing go-go to the world since 1976 — the group brought that pedigree, and the genre's massive meld of funk, rhythm and blues and soul, to this raucous hometown Tiny Desk.

Tuxedo performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 20th, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tuxedo

Tuxedo, the unlikely-on-paper funk-soul duo of Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One, brought a left-of-center sonic approach and a sharp sense of style to their Tiny Desk Concert.

Fragile Rock performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 16, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Fragile Rock

Fragile Rock is a band that relies on the boogie of The B-52s, the melancholy of The Smiths and the humor of Kermit the Frog. Oh, and they're all puppets.

Back To Top