When jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding unexpectedly beat out teen phenom Justin Bieber for Best New Artist at the 2011 Grammys, the news set off a storm of Internet protest from enraged Bieber fans, who defaced Spalding's Wikipedia page and flooded Twitter with sarcastic jibes. The Bieber backlash hasn't affected Spalding's current tour, however, according to violinist and Bloomington native Sara Caswell, who's been playing with Spalding's group since last autumn.
"She hasn't mentioned it at all," says Caswell. "That's just her way... she's probably just laughing at the whole thing and letting it roll off her back."
The day after the Grammy presentation, Caswell and the rest of the band met Spalding in Japan for a weeklong series of shows. She says the subsequent concerts had a special spark to them: "All of us were just floating on a high. Every night was sold out, and the audiences were just really thrilled by the enthusiasm that we were sharing with each other on stage and with them as well."
The ongoing tour has drawn some prominent Spalding fans, including pop star Prince and legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Spalding's current group is configured to feature much of the music from her recent CD Chamber Music Society, with a standard jazz rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums, plus a string trio that includes Caswell on violin.
Caswell expects to be on the road with Spalding for a few more months, playing on the European, Asian, and North American continents. "It's been an exhausting fall and spring," she says, "but it's also been a pretty incredible trip."
You can hear Sara Caswell performing with Spalding on this NPR Tiny Desk Concert.