As a musically precocious teenager, Esperanza Spalding, 31, mastered several instruments and traipsed through genres with ease. She began teaching at the Berklee College of Music at 20 years old. A couple of her albums topped the jazz charts, and many think of her as a jazz musician, but she's performed with artists ranging from jazz legends Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock to Prince and recently with ?uestlove as a bass and drums duo.
In shows following her most recent release, March's Emily's D+Evolution, she's presenting much more than a concert. She incorporates staging, props and theatricality (she developed the show with playwright/director Will Weigler). That added dimension is what prompted Faux/Real Festival of Arts Director Ben Mintz to schedule Spalding to open the festival Thursday at the Orpheum Theater.
"Spalding epitomizes what we're going for," Mintz says. "It's a theatrical show. It's not a concert, or just rock 'n' roll. ... We're presenting multi-disciplinary events that are heavy on performance and experimental arts."
The album takes Spalding's middle name, and in the show, the young alter ego explores, develops and matures. The song "Good Lava" celebrates unrestrained self-expression.
Faux/Real is the successor to the New Orleans Fringe Festival, a long weekend designed for binge watching alternative theater events. But this year, it makes a sharp break with the Fringe's freewheeling concept. The Fringe featured some jury-selected shows, but many were included at the producers' will and risk. This year's Faux/Real festival, taking place Nov. 3-13 at venues across the city, features multi-disciplinary shows, literary readings and culinary events, but it schedules only a couple each night, and all are curated.
Faux/Real engaged New Orleans chefs and bartenders to create culinary events and creative pub crawls last year. This year's slate includes a couple of collaborations. An evening of food, drinks and music celebrates Louis Armstrong and his favorite foods at Cafe Henri (800 Louisa St.). Musicians from young traditional jazz bands perform traditional tunes and modern arrangements of Armstrong's songs. The kitchen offers deconstructed takes on Armstrong's beloved red beans and rice and chop suey, and there are special cocktails for the event, including one named "Swiss Kriss" (taken from an herbal laxative Armstrong liked).
On Election Day, Nov. 8, the festival has a colonial-themed party at Cane & Table (1113 Decatur St.), complete with two town criers announcing election results (there also will be a TV for news hounds). There will be themed drinks based on the Founding Fathers, including Martha Washington's cherry bounce and a drink from a recipe Ben Franklin published in Poor Richard's Almanack. There also will be tankards of porter. Attendees dressed as Founding Fathers or past presidents get half-priced drink specials. Colonial-era drinks also will be the subject of an event at the Catahoula Hotel (914 Union St.) Nov. 10 featuring spirits author Wayne Curtis and mixologist Nathan Dalton. They'll attempt to make the world's largest flip — a drink made by poking a hot lagerhead into an alcoholic mixture with molasses.
There are literary events featuring writers from across the Gulf South scheduled Friday through Sunday, Nov. 4-6 book readings, spoken word performances and more. From Nov. 7-11, there will be two showcases of short dramas, including works by Henrik Ibsen, Samuel Beckett and original works. There is a family-friendly daytime event on Nov. 13. Final details of these events were not available at press time. Check the Faux/Real website for information.