U.S. jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater reacts after being awarded with the medal of Arts and Letters by French culture minister Christine Albanel, unseen, in Paris, Friday March 14, 2008.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Denise Eileen Garrett — better known as Dee Dee Bridgewater — pays tribute to Eleanora Fagan — the inimitable Billie Holiday — to Ella Jean Fitzgerald and to others on her new CD, “Midnight Sun,” released last week.
Bridgewater chose the Grammy Museum for a CD release celebration and extensive Q&A with executive director Bob Santelli before a packed Clive Davis Theater audience that included her mom and her two talented daughters: one, her manager, the other, a vocalist of note who often tours with her mom.
Produced by Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski, her daughter/manager, the CD is a set of melodically sensual and lyrically lush interpretations of songs that Bridgewater has recorded on previous Grammy®-nominated CDs. It’s the fourth CD from the singer’s own label, DDB Records. It’s a must-have if you’re a fan of hers or any of her musical influences.
Bridgewater’s traveled near and far and wide to share her passion for jazz. She grew up in Flint, Michigan, with a jazz-playing trumpeter dad who turned her on to the genre. She gained entrée into the jazz world through her international tours with the Thad Jones-Mel Louis Big Band, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie. She appeared on Broadway as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (for which she won a Tony award). And she forayed into pop music before she relocated to Paris, where she picked up French and reconnected with jazz — now capable of singing any genre in either French or English. She now resides in the Las Vegas area.
Asked by Santelli, “Who sings your favorite love songs?” Bridgewater responded without hesitation: “Billie!” because of how, Bridgewater explained, “she attacks a word … puts emphasis on it … “She can make you cry!” There’s a clear connection between Holiday and Bridgewater as demonstrated on the latter’s Grammy win for best jazz vocal album for “Eleanora Fagan (1915—1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee” earlier this year. On that CD, the attack-a-word quality is in full effect.
Bridgewater’s win recalls another of her tribute-to-jazz-legend, Grammy® award-winning CDs, this one to the ‘first lady of song’: Ella Jane Fitzgerald. Entitled “Dear Ella,” the singer won best jazz vocal performance for this 1997 release. It’s clear that she knows from whence her jazz vocal artistry comes.
Before leaving, she and her longtime piano accompanist, Edsel Gomez, did a one-half hour performance of a few selections from the new CD, songs like the title track as well as “Speak Low” and “Good Morning, Heartache” resounding with Bridgewater’s abundant vocal and scatting talents and leaving the audience wishing they could enjoy more of her in the intimate, acoustically superior setting.
Bridgewater also hosts NPR’s weekly syndicated show, “JazzSet,” now in its second decade on the air.
The Grammy Museum plans to offer recordings of all its Q&A sessions — Herbie Hancock, Bootsey Collins — in the not-too-distant future.