Public Creation

The brilliant bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding is finishing an amazing act of public creation today.

Her album Exposure has been created, from conception to final tracks, live in the studio over the last three days – a total of 77 hours ending at 1pm Pacific time today. The entire process has been live streamed to Facebook with hundreds of people watching every time I’ve checked. Watch it now here.

It’s remarkable to watch an artist as brilliant as Spalding create – her focus, her energy, her faith in musical decisions.

I imagine that Facebook, which has been really pushing its live video offerings, was excited about a project like this. I can also imagine they might be interested in a more pop-oriented artist doing a similar project.

What I can’t imagine is a pop artist who could create in this manner. I can imagine jazz artists, folk, bluegrass, blues. But the way we make pop music today can’t be streamed – it’s too slick, too produced, too separated from the act of musical creation.

There may be more projects like this, but it will always be from self-assured, musically sophisticated, highly creative and interactive artists. Think of Herbie Hancock. Kurt Elling. Alison Kraus. Laith Al-Saadi. Even James Taylor, who has evolved well-beyond straight pop music. But I doubt you’ll ever see a contemporary top-40 artist doing a project of this nature.

As great as the new records from Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift might be, they’re like politics and sausages – we don’t want to see how they get made.

These marginalized musical genres – jazz, roots music – are more vital, alive, and relevant than we give them credit. One of the reasons I teach jazz is because it gives musicians skills and a connection to this deep well of creativity.

Cheers to you, Esperanza – you are a remarkable artist and have given us all a special gift by creating in public in this way.