Bridgewater celebrates New Orleans on Katrina anniversary

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Dee Dee Bridgewater, "Dee Dee's Feathers" (OKeh/Sony Music/DDB Records)

Grammy- and Tony-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater is the most complete jazz singer on the scene today — combining superb vocal chops and the acting talent that makes her a masterful interpreter of lyrics. Her skills are fully displayed on "Dee Dee's Feathers," a joyful collaboration with trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. The release celebrates the Crescent City's rich musical tradition, past and present, on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Among the traditional songs, Bridgewater shows her fine and mellow side on "What A Wonderful World" and "Do You Know What It Means," balads popularized by Louis Armstrong, with Mayfield contributing some heart-tugging trumpet solos. On Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans," she cuts loose by making her voice blow like a trumpet.

Bridgewater gets gritty on the Mardi Gras-parade staple "Big Chief," exchanging rousing vocals with guest Dr. John and engaging in a call-and-response chorus with the orchestra. The classic blues "St. James Infirmary" is updated with customized lyrics in an uptempo arrangement.

The new songs are also steeped in the tradition. Mayfield's "Congo Square," a tribute to the traditional birthplace of jazz, features guest percussionist Bill Summers' African drumming, while the trumpeter's wistfully romantic ballad "C'est Ici Que Je T'Aime," celebrates the city's French tradition.

Bridgewater heats up with some energetic scatting on "Treme," the exuberant theme to HBO's New Orleans-based series, with the orchestra's horns blasting away, which segues into the Rebirth Brass Band's party song "Do Whatcha Wanna." The title track also featuring Summers, draws on the rhythms of the feathery-costumed black New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians with a repeated refrain of "Hold 'em steady."

Bridgewater and Mayfield conceived this project to promote their collaboration on the newly opened New Orleans Jazz Market, the city's first solely-dedicated jazz performance and education center. Located in a reconverted department store in the Mid-City neighborhood devastated by Katrina, it's a symbol of the Big Easy's rebirth and resiliency a decade after the storm.