Esperanza Spalding at the Ogden Theatre, 9/26/12 (photos and review) - Reverb

Esperanza Spalding at the Ogden Theatre, 9/26/12 (photos and review)

Esperanza Spalding and her band, 12 members strong, played a packed Ogden Theatre Wednesday night in a performance that had the crowd singing along by show’s end.

Spalding’s emphasis on creating a live show that can be fun for fans unfamiliar with jazz makes the music feel less like eating your broccoli and more like sampling a box of assorted chocolates. To be fair, she’s not the only one capable of pulling this off, but her mix of talent, youth and beauty remind one of the days when jazz was America’s pop music. From her surprise Best New Artist Grammy last year, to her recent Levi’s commercial, to her natural, talkative stage presence, the girl gushes with star power.

In keeping with the album’s theme, the show began with a spotlight on the giant prop of a boom box and the sound of a radio tuning to various stations. The band then slid gracefully into a Thad Jones composition that sounded like “Us.”

Denver’s own Tia Fuller featured on sax in Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” with Spalding singing after Fuller’s solo, “Exactly what I was feeling.” Guitarist Jef Lee Jones spiked the breakup song “Smile Like That” with a snarling solo, while the rest of the band traded spontaneous barbs that perfectly expressed the charged emotions at the end of a relationship.

More pop-sounding songs like “Cinnamon Tree” still blended multiple harmony and horn parts. “Radio Song” brought the crowd to its feet and singing before Spalding returned with her acoustic bass and pianist Leo Genovese for a two-song encore.

Besides singing and playing electric and upright bass, Spalding writes the song arrangements, as well. That she and her band manage to make those songs sound effortless may be the true appeal of her music. It comes to you more satisfying than studied — as if you were singing along to a song on the radio.

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Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and recently completed his novel, “As We Used to Sing.” His selected work can be read at samdeleo.com

Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.

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  • EsperanzaFan

    That’s not Esperanza Spalding in the Levi’s commercial. It’s a woman with a similar hairstyle playing the cello, not the bass. Besides the hair, she looks nothing like Esperanza. She did do ads for Banana Republic and Uniqlo.

  • Sam DeLeo

    My apologies — I thought I had originally found a source confirming that, but was unable to find anything about it in a new search. As for your second point, I don’t believe in mistakes regarding politics or advertising. I would be hard-pressed not to conclude Levi’s was trying to capitalize on her Grammy win. Thanks for the post.