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Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding performs in Switzerland in March 2011.

In February, when Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist, it was a momentous occasion. Not only was the bassist and singer the first jazz musician ever to win that award, she did so despite being up against such commercial heavyweights as Justin Bieber and Drake.

Nonetheless, there was not rejoicing in the land. Bieber fans tweeted furiously in protest, but it wasn't just the young and idol-smitten who complained. Steven Stoute, an advertising executive who once managed the rapper Nas, placed a full-page ad in The New York Times which asked, in part, "How is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist?"

And when, two months later, it was announced that 31 Grammy categories, including many in jazz and Latin music categories, were being dropped, some musicians suggested the changes were in response to Spalding's Best New Artist win.

So, Esperanza, how does it feel to have caused Grammy cuts?

"Ha ha ha ha," she says, over the phone from her apartment in New York. "I don't think so. I mean, how would Justin Bieber not winning really affect anything? His fans absolutely love him, and they're going to continue to love whether or not he won the Grammy.

"And listen - I think the people who love my music already love my music."

That's certainly true. Although Spalding doesn't have a huge body of work behind her - Chamber Music Society, which came out early this year, is only her third album as a leader - she has amassed an impressive array of supporters, including jazz giants Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton.

Perhaps her most famous fan is Barack Obama, who has not only invited Spalding to play at the White House, but chose her to perform at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

It's enough to make a person's head spin, but Spalding seems refreshingly unaffected by the attention. Although her voice, high and girlish, makes her sound younger than her 26 years, her conversation is sharp and insightful, drawing on parallels in painting and literature to make her points.

Mostly, though, she's too focused on work to be dazzled by her own success. "I mean, my life hasn't really changed, you know?" she says. "It was already crazy with busy-ness, and it's still just as busy, because all the stuff that we're doing now was booked probably two years ago."

She'll be spending the summer touring the jazz festival circuit with her Chamber Music Society band, which augments the piano, drums and percussion with a three-piece string section. "It's the music of the record in live form," she says. "Some of the songs on the record that had no strings now have strings, and obviously there's more improvisation happening. We're stretching, and the strings are improvising."

In the fall, she'll switch from headliner to sideman to tour with Joe Lovano's band, Us Five (including shows at Toronto's Koerner Hall and Palais Montcalm in Quebec City). In February, she'll release her fourth album, Radio Music Society.

"I had too much music to put everything on the third record, Chamber Music Society," she says. "So I broke up all the material, and the half that seemed more in the vibe of intuitive, ensemble, open playing became the Chamber Music album. Then there were other songs that were more bombastic and fun - a little funkier and upbeat. Those were the ones that became this album."

As for the title, Spalding explains that she decided to frame the album in terms of an imaginary music school exercise. "The project would be, okay, you can take any 10 compositions that you want, and they still have to sound like the original compositions, but format them so that they can be played on the radio. And as the student, you go home and you go, okay, how the hell do I do that?"

Well, how did she do it?

"You'll just have to hear it," she says, and laughs.

Of course, there will doubtless be some who will assume, without hearing a note, that Spalding's radio exercise will amount to a dumbing-down, in which the jazz content gets shoehorned into some restrictive, radio-friendly format.

Spalding, however, isn't worried. "It's great to have that objective in mind as you arrange and record and mess with the sounds on a song," she says. "It's like with anything - it's good to have a little bit of structure. It actually can create more freedom, you know?"

Esperanza Spalding performs Monday night at Montreal's Thêâtre Maisonneuve as part of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.