Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Esperanza Spalding seems to do it all. The ever-evolving bassist-vocalist-composer emerged from the jazz scene in the early 2000s, winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2010,  and she’s been relentlessly pushing the boundaries of the genre ever since.

Her most recent album, 12 Little Spells, is a suite of orchestrated songs, each of which pays homage to one of the 12 physical centers in the body—the eyes, ears, solar plexus, and so on. The record was inspired by Spalding’s study of Reiki, a Japanese form of alternative medicine that focuses on spiritual healing, and her fascination with alternative medicine and other spiritual practices.

The number 12 is featured prominently in the project; the album was initially released in a series of 12 videos, there were 12 stops on her tour, the final of which, at New York City’s Town Hall, was on December 12, though we were told that was just a happy coincidence. 

We went to that show to capture Spalding’s ambitious multimedia staging and mesmerizing performance for the second installation of On The Road, a series of visual essays exploring the creative lives of notable musicians, onstage and off.

Spalding’s day-to-day manager Sarah George sweeps off the circular platform as audio engineer Fernando Lodiero tunes in the house sound.

Left: Multi-instrumentalist Morgan Guerin and Justin Tyson. Right: Spalding sports a “Life Force” jumpsuit during soundcheck.

After soundcheck, Spalding takes a moment alone to connect with the energy of the room. Awareness of the body—a central theme of 12 Little Spells—is informed by Spalding’s recent study of Reiki.

(Left) George steams the dress for the night’s performance, one of 12 designed by Diego Montoya. (Right) Tyson and Guerin burn off some of their dinner with pushups.

Spalding performs on the circular platform.

Things loosen in the latter part of the performance as Spalding joins her musicians.

For the encore, she returns to the stage in her Life Force jumpsuit.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend