Since Black History Month is usually the most apparent time to showcase music about African American heritage, jazz artist Esperanza Spalding took full advantage of the opportunity to do so. Released on February 1, Spalding’s new single “Black Gold” highlights the achievements of Africans prior to slavery. Her song also directly speaks to young, black boys, letting them know of their importance and that they are descendants of African royalty.
In the song, which features R&B vocalist Algebra Blessett, she sings “Hold your head as high as you can/High enough to let them see who you are little man/For life sometimes is cold and cool/Maybe no one else will tell you/So you are/ Black Gold.”
Spalding elegantly showcases her firm confidence in the younger generation of African American males, who are one of the most stereotyped figures in society.
While Spalding is not the first person you would think of to write a song about young black males, “Black Gold” further embodies her musical versatility and knack for reaching audiences outside of the traditional jazz format.
The up-tempo track could easily be a crossover R&B tune, but that’ not completely unusual for Spalding considering the fact that she blends various genres in her music such as bossa nova and neo-soul.
But, what’s surprising is the different instrumentation Spalding chose for the song. On “Black Gold,” you’ll find her jamming on the electric bass guitar rather than on the acoustic bass.
Spalding’s use of the electric bass guitar on the new single just may be a hint of the divergent musical path she’s taking on her new album Radio Music Society, which hits stores March 20.
It remains to be seen if the new CD will live up to the enormous success of her 2010 album Chamber Music Society, which was the biggest selling Contemporary Jazz album of 2011 and earned Spalding the title of number one Contemporary Jazz artist of the year, among other honors.
But, if the new album is anything like the first single, then my bet is it will be just as sophisticated, creative, and socially relevant as her previous work.
I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Check out the new video for “Black Gold”