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

Liz Magnes Courtesy of Liz Magnes hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Liz Magnes

Liz Magnes On Piano Jazz

Revisit the Israeli jazz pianist's set of classics and originals, featuring a song performed with host Marian McPartland in this 1997 episode.

Liz Magnes On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/580318597/580396172" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center

Fred Hersch And The Art Of Introspection

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

We join the pianist at his loft in SoHo to talk about his upbringing in Cincinnati, late-night gigs in New York, his recovery from a coma in 2008, and his adaptation of Walt Whitman's poetry.

Fred Hersch And The Art Of Introspection

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/578894724/579216920" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Massimo Photographe/Courtesy of the artist

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

The award-winning jazz artist performs original compositions and a set of standards during this 1991 episode.

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/575768260/575921729" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

David Murray performs at Winter Jazzfest 2015. John Rogers for NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Rogers for NPR

A David Murray Double Bill

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The monstrously talented and astoundingly prolific tenor saxophonist returned to New York this winter to present a four-clarinet summit and a new trio with Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington.

This year, we bade farewell to avant-garde pioneer Muhal Richard Abrams. Michael Hoefner/Wikipedia hide caption

toggle caption Michael Hoefner/Wikipedia

'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2017

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Friends of our program honor a handful of departed artists, celebrating their lives in an episode filled with insight, humor and plenty of music.

'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2017

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/572421441/572633580" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

Don Pullen On Piano Jazz

The brilliant pianist played church music and R&B before joining Charles Mingus' band and forming his own quartet. He joins Marian McPartland for a song in this 1989 episode.

Don Pullen On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/570834686/570846392" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Claudio Roditi, photographed in 1990. David Redfern/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption David Redfern/Getty Images

Claudio Roditi On Piano Jazz

The versatile trumpeter made his way from Brazil to the New York jazz scene in the 1970s. Hear him perform with host Marian McPartland in this 1996 episode.

Claudio Roditi On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/567716375/567717240" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top