|Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater|
If Eleanora Fagan (Billie Holliday’s birth name) were alive, Dee Dee, I would write her a letter expressing what a spectacular concert you put on Friday evening at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, MI. Dee Dee the letter would say the following:
Dear Mrs. Fagan,
You don’t know me from Adam. I am Charles L. Latimer, a jazz journalist from Detroit Michigan. On November 5th, I attended jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Billie Holliday tribute concert at Orchestra Hall. I’m sure by now you’re familiar with Dee Dee. In my book, she’s one of the top jazz vocalists in the game, and Friday night she put on a marvelous show, performing songs that you immortalized. Bridgewater has stagecraft, and she knows how to engage an audience.
Her set Friday night was successful because Bridgewater didn’t try to emulate your style. Listening to Bridgewater workout on “Fine and Mellow”, “Strange Fruit”, and “God Bless the Child”, I wondered if she conversed with your spirit in the dressing room before the show began. Mrs. Fagan, it felt as if your spirit gave the vocalist a pep talk. If such a conversation transpired Bridgewater carried out your advice to the letter. Let me recap some of the highlights.
Bridgewater had an excellent band that she’s totally in love with saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Bridgewater is no spotlight hog. She shared the glamour with her band-mates, and she engaged in an improvisational exchange with each. On “Fine and Mellow”, she traded measures with Handy-who she affectionately referred to as the Handyman. They shared a kinetic connection all night long.
Two songs later, she called out Hutchinson. Mrs. Fagan, it was the first time I witnessed an improvisational exchange between a drummer and a vocalist. Bridgewater and Hutchinson traded notes like stockbrokers. Near the end of the concert, Bridgewater and Davis had a duet.
Davis is a sensational jazz bassist. They played a song you wrote in the 30’s “My Mother’s Son-In-Law”. At the end of the composition, she worked in a few choruses of “Hit the Road Jack”. The audience went bananas. The sure-footed pianist Gomez arranged all the material her band played, and he stretched out on several up-tempo selections, but overall he was more of a behind-the-scene-guy.
As for Bridgewater, she’s a very sensual vocalist. Mrs. Fagan forgive me if I sound perverted. Bridgewater seemed to make love with every note she sang. She prefaced songs with plenty of sexual innuendo. Honestly, it became tiresome at times, but that's the only bad thing I can say about an otherwise great performance. She knows how to captivate an audience.
Charles L. Latimer
So Dee Dee, if Lady Day were still alive this is the letter I’d spend her. You really honored Holliday in grand fashion. I bet she would appreciate that you did so without emulating her style.