DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER
By the time Dee Dee Garrett left the University of Illinois in 1970, she had acquired a husband, the brainy trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, and a new professional surname, which would remain after her divorce. But most important, she came away with a bright and versatile approach to singing jazz. It allowed her to wow audiences at the Village Vanguard–where they saw her and her husband each Monday in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, the era’s leading big band–as well as the fusion fans who heard her on Stanley Clarke’s debut album, Children of Forever. Then, in 1974, she signed on with the Broadway production of The Wiz, and for a short time became a bona fide pop star. After that Bridgewater moved to LA, then Paris, where she immersed herself in theater. Not until 1990 did she reemerge on the jazz radar screen, with an assured and exciting performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival; the album from that concert (In Montreux, on Verve) reminded listeners what they’d been missing. Bridgewater’s voice combines the voluptuousness of Sarah Vaughan with the sweet, girlish clarity of Ella Fitzgerald. Her theater work has honed her interpretive abilities, and her early jazz work gave her an education in improvisation that most singers should envy; it informs both her occasional scat solos and her rhythmically vital phrasing. Bridgewater has recorded her last three albums in tribute to past greats–Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald–and that decision has paid off: the first earned a Grammy nomination, the last won two Grammy awards. Her treatment of Fitzgerald’s repertoire managed not only to pay homage but also to spotlight her own style; presumably many of those songs will show up on her set list here. Friday, 8 PM, College of DuPage Arts Center, 22nd and Park, Glen Ellyn; 630-942-4000. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Philippe Pierangeli.