Triple Grammy-winning artist Esperanza Spalding makes her return to Austin City Limits this weekend with a mesmerizing performance that transcends jazz. In a touching tribute Spalding dedicates the episode to legendary guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away January 28, 2013. The appearance marks their final performance together.
Joined by a stellar 11-piece band, Spalding performs songs from her latest release Radio Music Society, which scored two 2013 Grammy Awards, including Best Jazz Vocal Album. The album represents a celebratory vision of the artists who helped cultivate and inspire Spalding’s career throughout the years. Radio Music Society has received high praise from critics, who hail the album’s “journey through soul, gospel, balladry and big-band swing” [The New York Times] and “torchy swaggers, world-jazzy guitar grooves propelling smoky saxes, and political songs with only a Hammond organ for company” [The Guardian].
Spalding made her ACL debut back in Season 35, performing tracks from her 2008 breakthrough Esperanza, and wowed an audience largely unfamiliar with her music. Her appearance continues to be one of ACL’s most popular encore episodes. She has since gone on to capture the attention of audiences around the globe, leading to her stunning 2011 Grammy win as the first jazz musician to win for Best New Artist. Spalding’s dynamic relationship with her acoustic double bass has cemented her presence in musical history as a modern jazz virtuoso with “a light, fizzy, optimistic drive that’s in her melodic bass playing and her elastic, small-voiced singing” [The Times].
“The first time Esperanza appeared on ACL, she was a best-kept secret,” admits ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “But now the word is out, and the world is her stage. This time she also brings a stage full of incredible jazz musicians, and an hour full of new music. People will be writing about this show 50 years from now.”