Written by John Kin from OPB
Esperanza Spalding has often said that she hopes to use the fame from her 2011 Best New Artist Grammy to help give her friends and mentors in the jazz world the recognition they deserve. She got her chance earlier this month, when Spalding and her longtime teacher and mentor, trumpeter Thara Memory, accepted the Grammy for their arrangement of “City of Roses” from Spalding’s 2012 album Radio Music Society.
Spalding started studying with Memory as an 8-year-old jazz prodigy, and credits his instruction with giving her a foundation in music. Memory went on to create the American Music Program, a magnet school which has been credited with training a new generation of jazz players — including Spalding and saxophonist Hailey Niswanger.
“City of Roses” is a celebration of Spalding’s hometown of Portland, Ore. For the recording, Spalding wanted to showcase the city’s jazz scene and the power of mentorship. She and Memory decided to include students from his Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra in the session, along with local professional musicians such as saxophonists Renato Caranto and trombonist Dan Brewster.
The group reunited in August 2012 for a benefit concert for the school; there, they performed this version of “City of Roses” for a hometown audience.