The album's theatricality is foregrounded by its titular main character, a presence that Spalding has sounded somewhat elusive about in interviews.Still, the character of Emily is clearly a galvanizing one for the bassist-composer.
"I felt overwhelmed by stuff that wasn't satisfying me," she says, "things I was supposed to do for my career.
I stopped and said, ' Let me get back to the basics.' I had no plans for the future -- until I heard the knock on the door from Emily."Esperanza Spalding: The Billboard Shoot Emily is what Spalding was called as a kid; it's her middle name.
But she talks as if it's a totally different person: "I'm the instrument Emily's playing," she says.
So when the jazz singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding made her entrance on the Verizon Hall stage Tuesday night, her bright-pop-of-color stilettos made multiple statements. But the fact that she eagerly went barefoot during one of her songs — in a program with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Carnegie Hall NYO2 ensemble — suggested that superficiality is fun, but only that.
Her multilayered, hairpin-turn jazz comes from a highly cultivated place, not creative whims.