Women in jazz do not always get the credit they deserve, but the women who do make their way in this male-dominated industry have just as significant an impact as their male counterparts; bassist, vocalist, and composer/songwriter Esperanza Spalding being one of them. As one of the few active and mainstream black female artists in jazz, Spalding is continuing the legacy of women within the genre.
Esperanza Emily Spalding was born on October 18th, 1984, in Portland, Oregon, which is where her career started. During her childhood, she was always drawn to music and gravitated toward various instruments. Spalding is known for starting her training in violin and soon later began her training in bass and guitar which would serve as her primary instruments. Spalding stuck with music and continued her education at Portland State University and Berklee College of Music.
After completing her education, Spalding began her journey in making history for not only women in jazz but jazz as a whole. After her first two studio albums (Junjo and Esperanza), she released her third album in 2010, entitled Chamber Music Society. This album led her to be the first jazz artist to win the “Best New Artist” Grammy award, where she was up against other up-and-coming artists such as Justin Bieber and Drake. Not all awards are shown on television, so a jazz artist still making her way to the big screen was a significant accomplishment. Spalding continued showing her success by earning other Grammys and musical accolades.
Aside from her awards, Spalding carries the spirit of jazz in her artistry through her voice and instruments. Many subgenres come to mind when one thinks of jazz, all of which Spalding includes in her music. Her work includes original compositions, straight-ahead jazz, standards, R&B, and other fusions of jazz. As a musical scholar who loves to play and listen to jazz, it has been very inspiring to have a woman as a lead in the conversion of jazz during the 21st century.