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  • SANDRINE LEE

Long before she upset Justin Bieber and took home the Grammy for Best New Artist—thus unleashing the wrath of those stricken with Bieber Fever—Esperanza Spalding was an up-and-coming musician from Portland. Before she set off for college and (eventually) jazz stardom, Spalding fronted the trio Noise for Pretend, who was signed to local imprint Hush Records (Laura Gibson, Nick Jaina, etc.). Here's a brief Portland exit interview she conducted with our Julianne Shepherd, way back in August of 2002.

ESPERANZA EXTRAVAGANZA STARRING BLAK SCIENZ TRIBE, ROB SCHEP CORE-TET, TRIO ESPERANZA, MIDNIGHT SEVEN
(Disjecta) Esperanza Spalding is a smart, super cool and very talented upright bass player, who recently received a full-ride scholarship from Boston's Berklee College of Music, after they saw her perform only once. This is her all-ages send-off party, with four out of her five bands performing all stripes of jazz, funk and hiphop. I asked her what was up with that:

Me: Isn't it hard being in like eight million bands? How do you have time to practice?
Esperanza: I don't know, it's weird. I screw up a lot, I'm always late to things, I have to devote such a big chunk of myself to all the things I'm doing so times always overlap. It's not a perfect strategy.

Me: Don't you ever have finger meltdowns?
E: Right now, I'm kind of disabled because Saturday night I played this electric funk stuff at Jimmy Mak's with Thara Memory. There was no music, so I had just to play constantly, and I busted the inside of my finger—but that's the first time it's happened. I remember when I first started playing, I really wanted to get calluses. I would get these huge blisters and keep playing on them. I had a grape-sized blister that was all white with pus, and then it turned into a huge callous. It's this gross process; you live through the pain, but suddenly you can hit things hard like metal.

Me: Are you excited to go to college?
E: It's not so much college—it's all the experiences. I'm excited about going to Boston; the music scene on the East Coast is so different. I'm gonna go there and check out all the players; I kinda hope to get my ass kicked and start from scratch. I feel like I've progressed here, and people think of me [as an anomaly because I'm a] minority and a girl, but there are ten-year-olds that do the shit that I do. I wanna be like, hey, here's my musicianship, let me learn it. I'd much rather be good for a bass player, than good for a 17-year-old girl. JS

Spalding is coming back to town for the Portland Jazz Festival. She'll be at the Newmark Theater on Friday, February 25, but that concert is way sold out. In addition to that show, Spalding will be speaking at a pair of Jazz Roundtable events at the Art Bar (1111 SW Broadway) on Thursday February 24, and Friday February 25. Those event are free and start at 2pm.