Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz singer, actress, producer, UN ambassador
Jazz Threads performance date: December 6, 2003
Born 1950 in Memphis, Tennessee
Maiden name: Dee Dee Garrett
Getting started: Immersed in music as a child, Dee Dee's mom played Ella Fitzgerald albums and her dad played and taught trumpet. She sang with the U of I Jazz Band and CU jazz ensembles of Tony Zamora and others before she headed to New York.
Career highlights: After capturing the hearts of jazz lovers in Champaign-Urbana where she sang with the U of I Jazz Band, Dee Dee Bridgewater moved onto the world stage where she now reigns supreme as the consummate female jazz singer. When you make your New York debut as lead vocalist with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and quickly begin recording with jazz giants like Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, and Ray Charles, where do you go from there? Dee Dee took to Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz and critical notice in Europe, Japan, and the US for roles in Sophisticated Ladies, Carmen Jazz, Lady Day (for which she was nominated for London's Laurence Olivier Award), and Cabaret. By then she was living in France and ready to rediscover her passion for jazz. In the last decade, this versatile singer has come out with a succession of jazz recordings, all of which have received Grammy nominations. She won two Grammys and France's Victoires de la Musique for her 1997 release Dear Ella. Dee Dee Bridgewater's depth of artistry reaches each and every audience member, regardless of whether she's playing a club, a theatre, or a festival stage. She even reaches directly into homes as the host of NPR's "JazzSet," a radio program exploring jazz festival performances around the world.
Most recent recording: This is New (August 2002, Verve Records)
"Among the few contemporary jazz singers with the sass and style to rival Fitzgerald, Vaughn or McRae." (Jazz Times)
Beyond music: In October 1999, Dee Dee began serving as an ambassador to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), appealing for international solidarity to finance global grassroots projects in the battle against world hunger.
Local connection: U of I jazz band director John Garvey heard Dee Dee Garrett sing at a competition of university bands and enticed her to Urbana. She sang with the U of I Jazz Band—and Cecil Bridgewater, fresh back from a tour of duty in the US Army, played trumpet in the band, the very same band that toured to the USSR in 1969. The two musicians married in 1970, and they have a daughter, Tulani. Though no longer married, Cecil and Dee Dee continue to collaborate musically, with Cecil writing many of the arrangements that Dee Dee performs and records.
Previous Krannert Center performances: December 8, 1972, with Max Roach and the U of I Black Chorus; September 23, 1998, "A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald" with pianist Thierry Eliez, bassist Thomas Bramerie, and drummer Ali Jackson