Read the original story here in The Oregonian.
Last spring, Esperanza Spalding (who enrolled at PSU's music program in 2000 at age 16) released the most anticipated album of her career, “Radio Music Society.” It was the most anticipated because prior to 2011, when she beat Justin Bieber for the Grammy Award for best new artist, most music fans hadn’t heard of Spalding. After that night, she was famous.
Her hope, she said time and again, was to share that fame, to use it to help get her friends and mentors get the attention they deserve. Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, she saw the tangible result of her work.
She and Thara Memory, her teacher as she grew up in Portland, won the Grammy for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist(s) for the “Radio Music Society” track “City of Roses,” which features students from Memory’s American Music Program.
It was one of the first tracks she brought up last year when she was asked about the many ties between her hometown and her new record.
"I was thinking about 'City of Roses' and what do I do now to make it its own entity for this record," Spalding said (it had appeared in a different form on a Banana Republic compilation). "Thara should be involved, and the kids should be involved. I tried to cram everything that was important to me into the record: mentorship, and youth being involved in music education and jazz education."
So she sprinkled Portland throughout. Aside from the students, Dan Brewster, a trombonist who often works with Memory lent a hand. Saxophonist Renato Caranto plays on the album. As does pianist Janice Scroggins. Spalding said she did it “with the hope that more people might inquire into these musicians if they saw their name. And I knew it was going to be awesome. I knew whatever Thara wrote was going to be awesome.”
Grammy voters agreed.
Memory was with Spalding in Los Angeles for the awards. According to the Los Angeles Times, he said, “It's kind of a surprise to me. The fact that we did use students with this arrangement, I cheated and I love it.”
Spalding also picked up the best vocal jazz album award for “Radio Music Society,” which topped Billboard’s jazz chart and came in at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 after its release on March 20, 2012.
That win meant Spalding went 2 for 3 on the day, losing out to Mumford & Sons in the best long form music video category.
On Feb. 24, she’ll close out the Portland Jazz Festival at the Newmark Theater with ACS, her group with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and pianist Geri Allen.