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September 2002

Dee Dee Bridgewater
This Is New
Verve

You can clown around with Cole Porter, mess about with Mercer or Mancini and reinterpret Rodgers and Hart to your heart's content. But don't dare fiddle with Kurt Weill. Such is, it seems, too often the misguided sentiment of those who opt to explore the Weill songbook. They treat his songs like priceless pieces of Dresden china, failing to appreciate that most were originally crafted as hardworking show tunes. Dee Dee Bridgewater-who, for my money, numbers among the few contemporary jazz singers with the sass and style to rival Fitzgerald, Vaughan or McRae-gets it.

On the aptly titled This Is New, Bridgewater devises 11 fresh ways to slice Weill, beginning with a spicy treatment of the title track, complete with a peppery Brazilian undercurrent. On "Lost in the Stars," so often served ice cold, she shades wide-eyed innocence with sexy insouciance. Her sweet, self-indulgent "My Ship" is all sugar-spun fantasy, just as it should be. Her "September Song," bracing as an autumn breeze, is steeped in satisfaction rather than mired in melancholy. Her ethereal, flamenco-influenced "Bilbao Song," wrapped in saucy irreverence, is eerily evocative of the Divine Sarah. Best, though, are two tracks that let Bridgewater get down 'n' dirty. "Alabama Song," an apt showcase for her superlative scatting, hints at Ella's infectious, giggly girlishness, and her "Saga of Jenny" deserves a place of honor beside Fitzgerald's "Hard Hearted Hannah" and Bobby Short's "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" as one of the all time great salutes to fun-filled free-spiritedness.

Originally published in September 2002
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