Dee Dee Bridgewater brings ‘Memphis’ and more to the JAS Cafe | AspenTimes.com

Dee Dee Bridgewater brings ‘Memphis’ and more to the JAS Cafe

Dee Dee Bridgewater

The Tony-winning actress and three-time Grammy winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater is wrapping up a big 2017 in Aspen.

The original star of "The Wiz" on Broadway will give four performances over two nights at the JAS Café today and Saturday.

Coming off a widely acclaimed new album celebrating the classic songs of her birthplace, "Memphis…Yes, I'm Ready," Bridgewater brings a small jazz combo to the intimate club.

At 67, Bridgewater has been drawing international notice yet again this year for a new album exploring the classic songs of her birthplace titled "Memphis…Yes, I'm Ready." She brought the material on the road with a massive show celebrating blues and soul classics by the Staple Singers, Otis Redding, B.B. King and other greats.

For these Aspen performances, Bridgewater will be performing with trumpet player Theo Croker and his band with arrangements of the Memphis material, selections of the New Orleans jazz she's perfected and wherever the nights take her.

"It's going to be a potpourri of music," she said in a recent phone interview from New Orleans.

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Bridgewater had long contemplated making a blues album, but continued to put it off for the sake of other projects, like her magisterial 2015 collaboration with Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on "Dee Dee's Feathers."

"It was something I always wanted to do," she said.

In recent years, Bridgewater had been spending time in Memphis, attempting to unearth more about her beginnings and about her father, a jazz musician who she characterized as "tight-lipped."

"It was on one of those trips, listening to some of these songs that I have on the album that I decided, 'Ah, this is the music that I know because of Memphis.'"

The Memphis blues and soul on this record is music that soothes and comforts, music that we all need right now and which Bridgewater needed after losing her mother in the spring.

"It's music that makes me feel good, that lifts me up," she said. "It's simple music and melodies, simple lyrics and naïve stories. And I just need to feel good right now. I figured if it makes me feel good it would make other people feel good."

Longtime audience members of Jazz Aspen's festivals may also recall the singer's debut here, in 1997 at the June festival, on a double-bill with Herbie Hancock.

"Besides being a famous jazz artist, she has a particular history with us," Jazz Aspen CEO Jim Horowitz said.

Bridgewater has suffered some physical setbacks this year — a ruptured Achilles tendon that was made worse by a backstage fall at a jazz festival in Jakarta. She has a year ahead of her before it will be healed, she said. But remarkably, it hasn't slowed down Bridgewater much.

"I don't think about it when I'm onstage," she said. "I use the stage as my physical therapy. I bend more than I can actually bend. I might run across the stage. … People say, 'I had no idea you were injured!'"

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

Who: Dee Dee Bridgewater

Where: JAS Café at the Cooking School of Aspen

When: Friday, Dec. 29 & Saturday, Dec. 30, 7 & 9:15 p.m.

Tickets and more info: http://www.jazzaspensnowmass.org

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