Esperanza Spalding seems to do it all. The ever-evolving bassist-vocalist-composer emerged from the jazz scene in the early 2000s, winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2010,  and she’s been relentlessly pushing the boundaries of the genre ever since.

Her most recent album, 12 Little Spells, is a suite of orchestrated songs, each of which pays homage to one of the 12 physical centers in the body—the eyes, ears, solar plexus, and so on. The record was inspired by Spalding’s study of Reiki, a Japanese form of alternative medicine that focuses on spiritual healing, and her fascination with alternative medicine and other spiritual practices.

The number 12 is featured prominently in the project; the album was initially released in a series of 12 videos, there were 12 stops on her tour, the final of which, at New York City’s Town Hall, was on December 12, though we were told that was just a happy coincidence. 

We went to that show to capture Spalding’s ambitious multimedia staging and mesmerizing performance for the second installation of On The Road, a series of visual essays exploring the creative lives of notable musicians, onstage and off.

Spalding’s day-to-day manager Sarah George sweeps off the circular platform as audio engineer Fernando Lodiero tunes in the house sound.

Left: Multi-instrumentalist Morgan Guerin and Justin Tyson. Right: Spalding sports a “Life Force” jumpsuit during soundcheck.

After soundcheck, Spalding takes a moment alone to connect with the energy of the room. Awareness of the body—a central theme of 12 Little Spells—is informed by Spalding’s recent study of Reiki.

(Left) George steams the dress for the night’s performance, one of 12 designed by Diego Montoya. (Right) Tyson and Guerin burn off some of their dinner with pushups.

Spalding performs on the circular platform.

Things loosen in the latter part of the performance as Spalding joins her musicians.

For the encore, she returns to the stage in her Life Force jumpsuit.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Recent

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate