Melbourne International Jazz Festival, 10th June 2012.
In an age where the art of jazz singing is often sadly reduced to formulaic clichés, the searing originality and smoldering vocal talents of Dee Dee Bridgewater are not only refreshing, they are electrifying. While Bridgewater spent some time in the shadows of other jazz singers – her tribute albums to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday won her two Grammys – she stated in a 2011 interview that it was time for her own identity to shine through: “So now people are saying, ‘You’ve got to do Sarah! You’ve got to do Carmen! You’ve got to do Nina! You’ve got to do –’ you know; and I’m just, I’m gonna do Dee Dee! What’s wrong with Dee Dee!” In her first ever Melbourne appearance, Bridgewater fluidly sashayed her way through titillating temptress, sultry diva, energetic powerhouse and tempestuous goddess, but the voice was unmistakably consistent within its endless stylistic variations. Just like jazz itself, really. And the enormous audience joyously received the manna this American queen bestowed. In the seemingly constant search for heirs to the great singers who we’ve lost in the last two decades (Fitzgerald, Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone, Betty Carter, and Abbey Lincoln among them), Bridgewater holds her own and it is wonderful to see her relishing her time in the sun.