Dee Dee Bridgewater is an American Marvel; performing back to the 1960’s, working with modern day and yesteryear Jazz heavyweights, as well as working now at sixty-seven to continue to release and perform around the globe is no small feat. Her soulful style and continual efforts move like a steam-powered locomotive using nothing but will-power and raw emotional authenticity to pave a path for Jazz newcomers of the future. Her bold voice that is now captured on her newest 2017 record, Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready, only brightens and inspires with each listen.
The closest thing to a gospel, Dee Dee Bridgewater has a Southern Charm and resembles an older style of Jazz/vocal performances that strikes into an untapped nerve that has not been exposed in the mainstream in what feels as centuries. Her voice is of pure siren-esque beauty that begins with “Yes, I’m Ready”, a loving tale of coming to acceptance that is played behind church organs, gentle piano, and percussion that is both enthralling and capturing as it fills the background in one incredible mix. Dee Dee Bridgewater’s sound is most similar to a vocalist that had been trapped in time, never losing that spark that made Jazz vocal performers so immaculate and worthwhile. The style is never a simple, one-dimensional flow, but is instead multiple layers of depth that consistently switches the emotional backing from Bridgewater in an effort to illustrate sides of the same coin in entirely separate fashions.
As she moves to “Giving Up”, she uses a plethora of haltered, but angelic backing vocalists that boost Bridgewater and her uplifting exclamation of lyricism that explains, “But it’s just no use; giving up, it’s hard to do. I tried, but I can’t break loose”. Bridgewater then moves on as harmonic organs blare in the backing, “Whether he knows or not, he really needs me too. Love, he’s all I got, and giving up, it’s so hard to do”. Bridgewater is simply beautiful in her displays where she screams and the emotion can be felt through the recording. She is a powerful vocalist that can accompany conflicting styles of music as she does in the following of “The Sweeter He Is”; where she describes in a much more uplifting instrumental, how she is still exploring the same lyrical themes, but in a drastic tone change. The horns are present that create an avant-garde explosion of sound, with the percussion and organ that works simultaneously behind Bridgewater’s spoken-word sections.
Her vocal range is the most important weapon in her arsenal, but her band is second-nature as they are a wide range of horns, percussion, and key players that only continue to build Dee Dee Bridgewater up on Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready in an incredible display of stamina and technique. Through the trials of emotional distress that Bridgewater expresses through her vocal performances where she goes into incredibly vivid detail to put Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready into a box-breaking, soulful record that ends on a graceful note. “Try a Little Tenderness”, a cover of an Otis Redding track is the final catalyst for her finale of a send off that goes faithfully into the night, shining a light for the future of Jazz everywhere.
Dee Dee Bridgewater is a treasure, her performances in both her early career and her later moments on Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready are just simply fantastic. She maneuvers like a graceful swan in a reflective pool of both the darkest sides of life, but also the moments of beauty that last forever. She wastes no time illustrating a Midas-touch in her vocal storytelling and styling that have reigned for nearly forty-years. A true Queen of Jazz, Dee Dee Bridgewater is fantastic in every element and produces an insightful, but also touching look into the raw emotional aspect of music.