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Indy Jazz Fest Day 4: Dee Dee Bridgewater Celebrates Billie Holiday

Not every entertainer can claim a position with the United Nations. One of several performers at the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest, Dee Dee Bridgewater is a Broadway star (much like fellow Indy Jazz Fest act Simone), Grammy winner, and jazz singer who was also named an ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1999 along with Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini, singer Miriam Makeeba, and actress Gina Lollobrigida. Dee Dee Bridgewater won’t be handing out any food on her arrival in Indianapolis on Friday, September 17, but she will be performing her tribute to legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday at Indiana Avenue‘s Madame Walker Theater as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest.

Video of Dee Dee Bridgewater performing at a “Women in Blues” event in 2004; Dee Dee Bridgewater will be playing in Indianapolis as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest

 

Dee Dee Bridgewater grew up with jazz; her father was a trumpet instructor who taught several great jazz musicians, including George Coleman and Charles Lloyd, and her mother was something of a jazz connoisseur. Bridgewater officially entered the world of music in 1970, when she was the lead singer in a professional jazz orchestra that performed with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, and even Dizzy Gillespie. But where Bridgewater truly made her mark was the stage; similar to Indy Jazz Fest participant Simone, Bridgewater has won several awards for her portrayals on the most famous stage in the United States, Broadway.

Video of Dee Dee Bridgewater performing “Undecided” with The Italian Big Band; Dee Dee Bridgewater will be playing in Indianapolis as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest

 

Dee Dee Bridgewater is probably most famous for her role in The Wiz, in which she played Glinda the Good Witch, a role that eventually earned her a Tony for “Best Featured Actress in a Musical” in 1975. Her performance in The Wiz began a long theatre stint in which she played many classic roles. She was the first black actress to portray Sally Bowles in Cabaret, and she also performed in Black Ballad, Cosmopolitan Greetings, and more. But the performance that’s the most pertinent to her musical career is definitely her leading role as Billie Holiday in Lady Day by Steven Stahl. The role earned her a nomination for the Laurence Olivier Award for “Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actress in a Musical” in 1987 and sparked her interest in the legendary jazz singer.

Video of Dee Dee Bridgewater performing “Precious Thing” with Ray Charles; Dee Dee Bridgewater will be playing in Indianapolis as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest

 

In 2009, Dee Dee Bridgewater released Eleanora Fagan (1915 – 1959): To Billie With Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater, a “celebration” of Billie Holiday that featured covers of classic Holiday songs by Bridgewater, including “All of Me,” “A Foggy Day,” “Good Morning Heartache,” and the song that embodied the turmoil and injustice of the civil rights movement, “Strange Fruit.” In an interview with JonesMag.com in 2010, Bridgewater says the album “is a celebration insofar as our trying to present another side to Billie, giving the audience another way of looking at Billie. We can take the music without trying to emulate her completely.” Emulate Holiday Bridgewater doesn’t do; what she does is bring Holiday’s songs to new light, providing more upbeat, contemporary arrangements to the jazz legend’s sound.

Video of Dee Dee Bridgewater performing “Red Earth” live; Dee Dee Bridgewater will be playing in Indianapolis as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest

 

To Billie With Love isn’t Dee Dee Bridgewater’s only recorded work, either. Indianapolis music fans are likely to love Bridgewater’s other releases; her discography stretches all the way back to 1974. Her recorded output has also earned the singer plenty of awards, including two Grammys (“Best Jazz Vocal Album” and “Best Arrangement for Vocal,” both for 1997’s Dear Ella), plenty of Grammy nominations (for “Best Jazz Vocal Album” for Red Earth, J’ai Deux Amors, and Live at Yoshi’s, and “Best Jazz Vocal” for Live in Paris), and independent awards by Indianapolis media and media the world over.

Video of Dee Dee Bridgewater performing at the 2007 Sibiu Jazz Festival; Dee Dee Bridgewater will be playing in Indianapolis as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest

 

Dee Dee Bridgewater will be performing on Friday, September 17 at the Madame Walker Theatre as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest. This particular Indianapolis event is sponsored by Clarian Health Partners, one of the largest proponents of Indianapolis health and the organization behind most of the major Indianapolis hospitals. The concert on Friday night is called “To Billie With Love: A Tribute to Lady Day” and will likely include plenty of numbers from To Billie With Love. If you enjoy Simone’s performance on Wednesday, Dee Dee Bridgewater’s concert at the Madame Walker Theatre should be your next stop on the Indianapolis festival‘s circuit. This Indianapolis event begins at 7:00 p.m.; tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 at the gate, so buy early before the show is all sold out!

Indy Jazz Fest Day 4: Dee Dee Bridgewater at the Madame Walker Theatre
Friday, September 17 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $25 in advance / $30 at the gate
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Madame Walker Theatre
617 Indiana Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46202
317.236.2099
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