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

Bassist Dave Holland and tabla player Zakir Hussain perform as part of Crosscurrents at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center

Crosscurrents: Converging Jazz And Indian Classical Music

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Explore the influence of Indian music on the jazz and rock scenes of the '60s with tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, prolific bassist Dave Holland and their international ensemble, Crosscurrents.

Harold Mabern Alan Nahigian/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Alan Nahigian/Courtesy of the artist

At The Helm: Harold Mabern, Stalwart Accompanist, At 82

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Harold Mabern has been one of jazz's most consistent accompanists over the last 60 years. In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we explore some of that history with him.

At The Helm: Harold Mabern, Stalwart Accompanist, At 82

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/614517884/614520719" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Barbara Cook performs at the 2014 New York Festival of Song at Carnegie Hall on April 28, 2014 in New York City. Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Barbara Cook On Piano Jazz

This week's Piano Jazz from 1998 remembers lyric soprano Barbara Cook, a Broadway star, staple of the New York cabaret scene and favorite of audiences around the world.

Barbara Cook On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/614380119/614428595" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

American jazz trumpeter Harry 'Sweets' Edison performs in 1991. David Redfern/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption David Redfern/Getty Images

Harry 'Sweets' Edison On Piano Jazz

On this episode of Piano Jazz from 1999, broadcast just months before Edison died, the legendary jazz trumpeter joins Marian McPartland for a few classics and an original.

Harry 'Sweets' Edison On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/612283249/612285662" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
George Kopp/Courtesy of the artist

Virginia Mayhew On Piano Jazz

Saxophonist, composer and bandleader Virginia Mayhew joins forces with Marian McPartland to perform "All the Things You Are" and "Body and Soul" on this 1998 episode of Piano Jazz.

Virginia Mayhew On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/610083723/610086310" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Joanne Brackeen and Jason Moran at NPR's Studio One in Washington, D.C. Eric Lee/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Eric Lee/NPR

Jazz Giants Take The Stage At The NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Jason Moran sat down with the NEA Jazz Masters to talk about their careers and listen to music that played important roles in their lives.

Jazz Giants Take The Stage At The NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/608093895/608239849" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

This 1988 episode of Piano Jazz features Brazilian pianist, composer, and vocalist Eliane Elias. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Eliane Elias On Piano Jazz

Brazilian pianist, composer, and vocalist Eliane Elias is a renowned artist in her home country and in the American jazz scene. Hear her first Piano Jazz performance from 1988.

Eliane Elias On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/607421826/607450646" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Willie Pickens On Piano Jazz

Chicago jazz mainstay Willie Pickens died this past December at age 86. Revisit his performance with McPartland in this 1997 episode of Piano Jazz.

Willie Pickens On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/604342537/604343909" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cleo Brown on the cover of Here Comes Cleo. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Cleo Brown On Piano Jazz

Cleo Brown makes a rare appearance to perform her greatest hit, "Pinetop's Boogie-Woogie," and to recall the style's heyday in the 1930s.

Cleo Brown On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/602133644/602133663" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top