Dee Dee Bridgewater

Few entertainers have ever commanded such depth of artistry in every medium. Fewer still have been rewarded with Broadway’s coveted Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical, The Wiz); nominated for a Laurence Oliver Award (Best Actress in a Musical, Lady Day); won two Grammy Awards (1998’s Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal for "Cottontail"); and France’s 1998 top honor Victoire de la Musique (Best Jazz Vocal Album).

As a sparkling ambassador for jazz, Dee Dee Bridgewater bathed in its music before she could walk. Her mother played the greatest albums of Ella Fitzgerald, whose artistry provided an inspiration for Dee Dee throughout her career. Her father was a trumpeter who taught music to the likes of Booker Little, Charles Lloyd, George Coleman, among others. It is the kind of background that leaves its mark on an adolescent.

Bridgewater made her phenomenal New York debut in 1970 as the lead vocalist for the band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, one of the premier jazz orchestras of the time. These New York years marked an early career in concerts and on recordings with such giants as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, and Roland Kirk; and rich experiences with Norman Connors, Stanley Clarke, and Frank Foster’s “Loud Minority.”

In 1974 Bridgewater jumped at the chance to act and sing on Broadway where her voice, beauty, and stage presence won her great success and a Tony Award for her role as “Glinda the Good Witch” in The Wiz. This began a long line of awards and accolades, as well as opportunities to work in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris, and in London where she garnered a coveted Laurence Olivier Award nomination for her tour de force portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday in Stephen Stahl’s Lady Day. Performing the lead in equally demanding acting-singing roles in such shows as Sophisticated Ladies, Cosmopolitan Greetings, Black Ballad, Carmen Jazz, and Cabaret (as the first black actress to star as “Sally Bowles”), Bridgewater has secured her reputation as a consummate entertainer.

Named Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in October 1999, Bridgewater joined the battle against world hunger. Taking over the reigns of NPR’s JazzSet from the illustrious Branford Marsalis, Bridgewater presents today’s best jazz artists in performance around the world, taking listeners to Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as Marciac in the French countryside and across the North American continent from Montreal to Monterey.

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Jessye Norman