Duality works for jazz star Esperanza Spalding -- she can perform with equal ease in clubs or arenas, can hang with Prince or Justin Bieber, and can call two places home.
She maintains one apartment where she conducts business (New York City) and another where she creates (Austin, Texas).
She keeps her Grammy for best new artist -- the first such prize won by a jazz performer -- in the latter spot.
"It's in my bookcase here in Austin," the bassist/singer said last week. "I don't know what [the Grammy] all means. I take it as a huge honor, the support that I get from my colleagues in my field. I'm grateful for the extra press and notoriety that it's bringing to my music, and hopefully it's illuminating the community of jazz."
Winning that prestigious award in February has not prompted Spalding to raise her concert fee, change her life (save for more interviews) or feud with Justin Bieber, whose fans thought he would grab that Grammy and vociferously expressed their objections via social media.
When Spalding met Bieber later that night, he was cool and congratulatory.
"He was completely sweet," said Spalding, who will turn 27 in two weeks. "He is obviously real hard-working. He said, 'I'm happy for you.' He seemed like a nice, kind-hearted 17-year-old. The fan [protest] didn't really bother me. It's OK. We were all emotional when we were 14, 15 and 16."
Most of Spalding's current tour -- including a concert Tuesday in St. Paul -- was booked before the Grammys. Featuring a string trio to help perform the music from her third album, 2010's "Chamber Music Society," it's a dramatically different environment from her other high-profile gigs of late -- opening for Prince in arenas.
These shows usually happen on short notice. "Each location demands a different presentation," she said. "I try to be sensitive to that and as accommodating as I can. The general feeling I had from Prince's audience was that they were ready to try to like what I was doing. I felt welcomed. I did a more rocking, outward, exciting kind of set."
After hours with Prince
They met in 2007, when Prince invited Spalding to participate in a late-night jam during his residency in Las Vegas.
"He called me back to do another jam session and we just kept in touch," Spalding said. "We found that we enjoyed playing music together and had a lot to talk about -- history, politics, science, religion. We talk about music, of course, art, all kinds of stuff. Shoot, it's like a friend who you sometimes don't remember what you were talking about but somehow you were talking for, like, three hours."
Prince came to see Spalding's quartet perform in downtown St. Paul in 2009 at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. As he listened in a limousine parked behind the stage, she dedicated the encore, Minnie Riperton's "Loving You," to him.
"I had seen him the night before and he told me he was going to come but that [limo] was the only way he could hear the concert," she said. "Otherwise it would be crazy if he got out because everybody would be up in his grill."
Do they have any plans to record together?
"We've talked about recording one day. Like maybe a trio project with [longtime Prince drummer] John Blackwell. We'll see. Nobody hold your breath."
At home onstage
A violin prodigy in Portland, Ore., Spalding switched to bass at age 14 and two years later received a music scholarship to Portland State University before transferring to Boston's Berklee College of Music. At 20, she became the second-youngest instructor in the college's history. While at Berklee, she toured with vocalist Patti Austin and then saxophonist Joe Lovano; the gigging forced her to quit teaching.
On her current tour, the jazz star with the exploded Afro makes a dramatic entrance into a homey setting onstage.
"When I get on to the stage," she said, "I'm walking into my home after a long day and all I want to do is not think about what I have to do tomorrow and what I did today. Thank goodness I have my cozy chair and I just sit, take a sip of wine, and I'm carried off into music that is all healing, all forgiving."
Playing mostly with her eyes closed, she tries to get her audience "into a more quiet, pensive, relaxed state for intimate listening. My last tour with the quartet was more bombastic and outwardly directed. This time, I'm trying to symbolically say, 'Get ready to be attentive and listen.'"
True to her duality, when she was hatching "Chamber Music Society," Spalding conceived another album, "Radio Music Society." "The premise was to format my music in a way without compromising and making it radio-friendly," said the bandleader, who worked on the project with R&B singer Lalah Hathaway, hip-hop star Q-Tip and jazz musicians Lovano, Jack DeJohnette and Terri Lyne Carrington.
After the new album is released in February or March, Spalding will take to the road with a different ensemble. Wherever she winds up, she'll make herself at home.