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Dee Dee Bridgewater, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Dee Dee’s Feathers

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It takes a keen-eared, fluidly adaptive performer to capture both the breadth and subtleties that define New Orleans’ musical landscape. Dee Dee Bridgewater, though born in a far different music hotbed, Memphis, and raised in Michigan, is just such an artist, demonstrating uncannily chameleonic interpretive skills across this 14-song salute. Of course, it helps immensely that Bridgewater is partnered with trumpeter, bandleader and (now-controversial) New Orleans Cultural Ambassador Irvin Mayfield, fronting his 18-piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Together they mix NOLA classics with newer covers and fresh compositions from Bridgewater, Mayfield and percussionist Bill Summers.

The ensemble opens with Harry Connick’s sexy, slithery “One Fine Thing,” does an about-face for a cashmere “What a Wonderful World,” then takes another left turn for a banjo-propelled treatment of Dr. John’s “Big Chief,” with the gravel-throated doc lending peppery vocal accompaniment, and a sashaying “St. James Infirmary.” Other standouts include a spicy Treme medley and a beatific take on Ellington’s “Come Sunday.” Among the originals, the vampish title track strongly hints at “Iko Iko,” Mayfield’s ebony “C’est Ici Que Je T’aime” is powerfully retrospective and, best of all, Summers’ “Congo Square” vibrantly coalesces the African rhythms that made jazz possible.

Originally Published