Live at the Lensic, 7:30 p.m., July 22
Jazz legend highlights New Mexico Jazz Festival
The Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe New Mexico hosts Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and her quartet for an evening of classic jazz. Dee Dee Bridgewater’s vibrant career spans four decades and reflects an incredible life journey.
Dee Dee grew up listening to the big bands, small combos, virtuosic solos and melodic improvisation that are the trademarks of the African American iconic music of jazz. “There was always music in my house, from the singers my mom loved to trumpet players my father liked.” Bridgewater’s father was a trumpet teacher. “I thought everybody listened to jazz.” she says.
The list of musical talents she has worked with displays an awareness of the great players of modern jazz. The Thad Jones Mel Lewis Band, Sonny Rollins, Frank Foster, Roland Kirk Norman Connors and Max Roach just to name a few. With a style and vocal phasing reminiscent of the great ladies of jazz Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, Dee Dee steps through a door opened by these two unparalleled influences of jazz vocalism. She adds flavor, style and a unique contemporary twist moving across the stage with a subtle sexy energy.
Bridgewater did not stop with redefining jazz vocals; she took on musical theatre winning a Tony for her performance in “The Wiz” and a nomination for the English equivalent, the Laurence Olivier Award for the one woman musical Lady Day. During her performances of Lady Day in Paris and London in l986 and '87, Bridgewater explains her amazing performance “It was eerie, I felt possessed by Billie.” When she became unexplainably ill she says, “My doctors said I was going through what appeared to be withdrawal.” Even four months after the play closed she says “I could feel Billie’s control over my voice.” The result of this experience is the critically acclaimed CD "Eleanor Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee."
Dee Dee Bridgewater uses her celebrity as a UN Goodwill ambassador. She travels the globe for the Food and Agriculture Organization, the largest autonomous agency under the UN umbrella. The agency is dedicated not only to fighting world hunger but teaching women to grow crops and establish sustainable food cooperatives. Working with women in groups of ten, the FAO teaches agricultural skills and gives these women the knowledge to teach 10 more. “It’s a great feeling to be able to be useful in this way.” Her humanitarian efforts don’t stop there; she recently began work with Metropolitan Opera star Jessie Norman’s Partnership for the Homeless which helps more than 15,000 homeless families in New York City.
A multiple Grammy Award Nominee, her Grammy wins are achievements she says she will never forget. Dee Dee won her first Grammy for “Dear Ella” in 1998 for best jazz vocals. In 2011 her labor of love "Eleanor Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee" won her the Grammy again for best Jazz Vocal. “This was one I was not expecting,” she says, “Two great ladies have taken me to the Grammies.”
Her most recent effort, "Midnight Sun," is a compilation of love songs from throughout her career. “My mother wanted me to do an album of ballads.” 10 selected tracks from her Universal Music Group library are included in this passionate tribute to love.
An evening of great music awaits you at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on July 22, 2011. Dee Dee Bridgewater visits Santa Fe for the first time. She brings Pianist Edsel Gomez, Jaz Sayles on drums, Kenny Davis on bass and Craig Handy on reeds. All the ingredients you need for a night of perfect entertainment in The City Different, love songs, spicy jazz and a mellow mood. Contact the Lensic Performing Arts Center for ticket information.
Photograph by Mark Higashino