Dee Dee Bridgewater: Fearless And Free In words as well as music, hear how seriously Bridgewater takes her role as a music mentor and how it connects to her own experience in the jazz lineage.

Dee Dee Bridgewater performs at Jazz At Lincoln Center. Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption
Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center

Dee Dee Bridgewater performs at Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center

Dee Dee Bridgewater: Fearless And Free

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/525854612/525857247" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

When Dee Dee Bridgewater learned that she would become a 2017 NEA Jazz Master, a succession of thoughts and feelings flooded her mind. The news came as a total shock, as she tells it: "It was so far out of my orbit and just my whole sphere of thinking," she said in a conversation at NPR this spring, hours before she formally received her award.

She's 66 — far from retirement age in jazz, and on the extreme forward edge of the NEA Jazz Masters demographic. So she was aware of her relative youth in the field. She also recognized that there haven't been many women in the ranks of NEA Jazz Masters: fewer than 20, out of 145. That idea led her to reflect on her predecessors: legendary singers like Betty Carter, who was inducted back in 1992, and Abbey Lincoln, who received the nod in 2003.

Bridgewater sought inspiration and counsel from both Carter and Lincoln, as she recalls in this episode of Jazz Night, which features music recorded during the season opener for Jazz at Lincoln Center. On a program called "Songs of Freedom," organized by drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Bridgewater sang material associated with Lincoln as well as Nina Simone: furious anthems of the civil rights movement, like "Driva Man" and "Mississippi Goddam," both potent and relevant today.

A separate concert, "Songs We Love," found Bridgewater singing less politically charged (but still gripping) fare like "St. James Infirmary," which appears on her most recent album, Dee Dee's Feathers. She worked with a different group of musicians on that evening, but still leaned on younger talent — a reminder of the role that she herself has embraced, as a mentor in the music.

In words as well as music, this episode reveals how seriously Bridgewater takes that responsibility, seeing as how it connects to her own experience in the jazz lineage. But maybe "seriously" isn't the right word when it comes to Dee Dee, whose effervescence shines through even in a reflective mood. Join her here for a while; she's excellent company, no more or less so now that mastery is officially a part of her résumé.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Miles and Betty Davis in color in Miles' New York westside brownstone, 1969 Baron Wolman hide caption

toggle caption Baron Wolman

Miles Davis Goes Electric: Celebrating The 50th Anniversary

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis going electric for Bitches Brew — part controversial, part revolutionary and as a whole, historic.

Electric Miles: Behind The 'Brew'

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/751422609/751477610" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cannonball Adderley sits with his saxophone. JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley left a monumental legacy during his two decades in the spotlight. Revisit his music with old bandmates and Patrick Bartley Jr.'s young New York band.

'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/745324110/745476669" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Masego plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 8, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Masego

The spirit of Cab Calloway lives on in Masego, the singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist who surprised NPR's Tiny Desk audience with a zany sense of showmanship.

Jacob Collier plays a Tiny Desk Concert on May 16, 2019. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Jacob Collier

As the NPR staff gathered to watch his performance, Jacob Collier sprinted full bore down the hallway for his set, hardly able to contain his creative energy or enthusiasm.

Mark Guiliana Justin Bettman/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Justin Bettman/Courtesy of the artist

The Artistic Duality Of Drummer Mark Guiliana

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Explore two sides of Mark Guiliana's creative brain, with two different sounding bands, from two hemispheres of the globe: The Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet from Amsterdam and Beat Music from Brooklyn.

Host Christian McBride and Saxophonist Lou Donaldson in Florida. Katie Simon/WBGO hide caption

toggle caption Katie Simon/WBGO

Good Gracious! Words Of Wisdom And Soulful Reflection From 'Sweet Papa' Lou Donaldson

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Host Christian McBride sits down with saxophonist Lou Donaldson to talk about Lou's life as a performer, his thoughts on jazz today and how hip-hop brought new ears to his music.

Good Gracious! Words Of Wisdom And Soulful Reflection From 'Sweet Papa' Lou Donaldson

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/733992956/734463789" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Turtle Island String Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Watch Carry Me Home, a program from Turtle Island, the hardest working string quartet in jazz, and their latest collaborator, pianist Cyrus Chestnut.

Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/729918599/730429366" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top