“Dee’s voice is pure and tender, at times haunting. Her approach to the material is straightforward and unpretentious. She takes you inside the lyrics, and you can almost hear her smile.” – Jesse Hamlin, SF Chronicle
Dee Bell’s fourth release Silva.Bell.Elation on 21 January 2014 was a departure from the prior three straight swing albums. Swing samba only comes close to describing the joyous merging of Bell’s swing vocals that float over Marcos Silva’s precise Brazilian rhythms creating a yin and yang new sound.
Dee Bell’s debut album, “Let There Be Love” with Stan Getz on saxophone, and Eddie Duran (a Benny Goodman Band graduate) on guitar, was released on the Concord Jazz label (CJ-206) as an LP for Valentine’s Day 1983. The record also featured prominent Bay Area musicians Al Plank, Vince Lateano, and Dean Reilly.
“Let There Be Love” posted in the top ten in Radio and Records jazz airplay charts in the spring of 1983. The follow-up recording in 1985 of “One by One” (CJ-271), also on the Concord Jazz label, reached number 13 on the Radio and Records jazz airplay charts in early summer 1985. This album featured trumpeter Tom Harrell along with Duran and Plank, and other Bay Area jazz musicians.
“Let There Be Love” was chosen as a BillBoard Magazine “Recommended LP Jazz Pick in 1983. ” Bell was also nominated by Downbeat Magazine in their Jazz Critic’s Poll for two consecutive years as “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition.” BAM Magazine nominated “Let There Be Love” as the Best Debut Album and “One by One” as Best Jazz Vocal Album, both in their release years.
Bell has performed both nationally and internationally and has appeared at the Golden Globe Awards, the Russian River Jazz Festival, the Jazz in the City Festival, the Napa Valley Mustard Festival to name a few, as well as a wide variety of television, club and hotel performances.
Bell moved to San Francisco in 1978 to develop her professionalism as a vocalist and to work toward her goal to make a record in five years. One of her first experiences in Northern California was when she “sat in” at a Santa Cruz Jazz Club with Eddie Jefferson, where he told her “to keep on singin’ because you’ve got a fine sound.” The story of her first musical pairing with Eddie Duran is legendary. She met Eddie Duran at the Trident Restaurant where she was a waitress and his trio was the musical entertainment. He heard her sing “Happy Birthday” to a friend after hours and was taken with her voice and then asked her to sit in on all of his performances at the Trident over the next few years. In 1982, Eddie and Dee made a demo tape that enticed Stan Getz to volunteer to play on a record date, as Stan also became a fan of Bell’s sound. The demo tape led to Let There Be Love with Stan Getz, followed by One by One, also with Eddie and featuring Tom Harrell.
Bell grew up in a musical family in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is the middle child of five. She played clarinet and dulcimer at a young age, but as early as nine, her dream was to become a singer. Between the ages of 12 and 23, she performed in many musical groups, both vocal and instrumental.
First a pre-medicine, then an art student, she graduated from Indiana University in 1972 as an art teacher and metal sculptress. After graduation, she lived in a cabin in the Hoosier National Forest with a wood stove, no running water, and no telephone. During this period she studied voice with IU’s visiting opera diva, Eileen Farrell, with graduate student and Nashville singer, Kathy Chiavola, and performed in local clubs while she ran her own health food restaurant (which fostered one of the first health food stores in the Midwest) and continued in the graphic arts by painting signs and creating logos. Bell continues to perform in the Midwest during summers, in California festivals and in private invitation-only concerts.
“Bell has a haunting, jazz-infected sound, her diction and phrasing flawless.”
– Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times