For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

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.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

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

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.