Esperanza Spalding was celebrating Earth Day in her concert Monday at the Warner Theatre, sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, giving some shout-outs to the mother planet by the splendid show’s end.
There was already quite a bit of earthiness in her approach — a solid mastery of bass, whether on stand-up acoustic or electric. Nimble, never showy and not stopping for solos, she knew the instrument’s job was to keep the bottom on the expansive tunes even as she added a certain gleefulness to her variations. With a career built on instrumental prowess, Spalding’s longevity will likely rely on her equally playful, ethereal and elastic voice, which often gives way to scat phrasing.
The Portland, Ore., native, just 28, came to widespread fame two years ago at the Grammys when she became the first jazz figure to win best new artist — infuriating fans of her fellow nominees Drake, Mumford & Sons and especially Justin Bieber.