Dee Dee Bridgewater is one of my favorite modern jazz vocalists. She performed in a most intimate setting of music institute of Chicago Auditorium Theatre. Housed, in a former church, the MIC seats are mostly church pews, an ample stage is framed by a former pipe organ pulpit. Even though the setting looked formal, Dee Dee assured the audience, right from the start that her set would be "fun" and "casual." And that was for sure!
Dee Dee opened with a modern rendition of "Lady Sings The Blues" by Billie Holiday and Herbie Nicols. She totally transformed that song into a modern piece that could have been written today. Her wonderful full-bodied tone and straight ahead delivery was great!
She proceeded to do a tribute to Billie Holiday, in song, with a set that included, "God Bless The Child," "Good Morning Heartache," "Them Their Eyes'," and "Speak Low," all made famous by Billie Holiday.
With her quartet that consisted of local Chicagoans, Jeremy Kahn (piano), Stewart Miller (bass), Bob Rummage (drums), and her "son" on trumpet who tours with her, Theo Croker, she performed a flowing set of about twelve songs. In addition, the Music Institute of Chicago String Ensemble added much to the quartet setting.
Dee Dee was one of the most entertaining vocalists I have ever seen. She proceeded to lit to "caress" her band members by one, even sitting on the lap of an audience member and caressing their hair! It was really a sight to behold! There was no barrier between performer and audience! She proceeded to act out many of her song lyrics like on "Them Their Eyes," by looking deep into her band leaders' eyes during that number.
Though it was fun, perhaps it became a little distracting toward the end of her set, since she 'caressed' the audience and music on almost every number.
A few tunes were original numbers she co-wrote with her ex "was bund" Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet and arranger, who still does all her arrangements for her shows. A piece they wrote together was a cute bossa nova called "Love and Harmony" that was/she said a peace song from the 7O's. She also performed, "My Favorite Things" and "Blue Monk" from modern jazz repertoire.
I was in awe of how casual her set was and how she totally embraced her audience of mostly 'baby boomer' jazz fans.
The entire performance was a marriage of jazz and entertainment not usually experienced in a jazz concert setting, where the vocalist is usually more serious and does not interact with the audience much. I believe this element would improve jazz attendance, if the singer would express more of their personality like Dee Dee did.
Dee Dee Bridgewater was totally spontaneous calling the audience hipsters' and saying she would 'tell the truth at all times during her performance, which got quite a laugh from the audience. All in all everyone had a good time!
Story by Maja Rios, November 2015.