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Dee Dee Bridgewater: Her Memphis Roots Are Showing

A conversation with the NEA Jazz Master vocalist on her exploration of the music of her native city

Dee Dee Bridgewater (photo by Mark Higashino)
Dee Dee Bridgewater (photo by Mark Higashino)

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The singer Dee Dee Bridgewater has been an electric presence on the contemporary jazz scene for decades.  The Grammy Award-winning vocalist is a dynamic performer who also crafts conceptual albums, including For Ella (tribute to Ella Fitzgerald), Eleanora Fagan: To Billie With Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater (tribute to Billie Holiday), Red Earth (dedicated to African and Malian music) and Dee Dee’s Feathers (a collaboration with New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield). She was recently named an NEA Jazz Master, and during her acceptance speech she spoke about how important the NEA was in enabling her to work with the radio station WBGO and its NPR show JazzSet. She spoke with JT publisher Lee Mergner about her upcoming album, Memphis (out Sept. 15 on Sony/OKeh/DDB), on which she sings classic cuts from the Memphis soul and R&B scene of the ’60s and early ’70s. She also reflected on the NEA honor as well as the Abbey Lincoln tribute she organized with Dianne Reeves, Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington.

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