Esperanza Spalding

Among the young voices to emerge on the national jazz scene of late, Esperanza Spalding has the makings of a star draped all over her. The Oregon-born singer and acoustic bass player is only 23, but she's already the youngest faculty member in the history of her alma mater, Boston's Berklee College of Music. In addition to that miraculous milestone, she's recorded with veterans like Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny (who has mentored her career from the start) and recently performed live on the Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman shows. Spend five minutes on her MySpace page and you'll understand why her "coming-out party" has been practically seismic and on par with that of Norah Jones' half a decade ago. On her major-label debut, Spalding skillfully takes on an array of styles ranging from samba, Latin, and hard-driving jazz to R&B. Such eclecticism probably would not work in less-confident hands, but she revels in these multiple directions without sounding pretentious. The woman plays upright bass and croons like a diva at the same time. If that's not impressive enough, the fact that she sings in English, Spanish, and Portuguese makes Esperanza the "hope" that jazz fans have been waiting for all these years.

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Ernest Barteldes