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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

"From Dee Dee to Billie" in Saratoga Springs Saturday Night

Jun 22, 2011

Dee Dee Bridgewater can’t wait to sing at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival.

“I love it,” she said from the New York studio where she is mixing a CD for trumpet player Theo Croker, her first as a producer. “It’s a wonderful festival. I like the fact that people can lay out on the grass, or you can be in the venue or roam the grounds. People are picnicking and they can come for the day or the whole weekend. It’s great! I really love this Festival.”

Bridgewater, a three time Grammy-award and Tony-award winning singer, is on the evening bill Saturday, June 25, 2011 presenting her tribute to singer Billie Holiday, “To Billie, With Love”. Other artists performing on Saturday include Michael McDonald, George Wein & the Newport All-Stars, the Jack DeJohnette Group featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa, Eliane Elias, the Ben Allison Band and the Lionel Loueke Trio.

Ms. Bridgewater took on the challenge of singing the well known – and well loved - songs of “Lady Day” from a different perspective than many singers might. “I tried to take another look at her and make people understand that she was a full-fledged woman with a lot of emotion and talent, not just a melancholic person surrounded by all the drama and pathos that she has been stereotyped with.”  The resulting CD, Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater, won a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

She and her band – pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Jaz Sawyer and reed player Craig Handy – take a contemporary view of this classic music. “We’re all looking at different ways to go at the songs”, she explained. “Me, I’m always looking for a new way to phrase the words of the song or play a little with the time signatures. I always ask the guys to come at the music with a fresh outlook every night so we don’t get lazy or rest on some great passages from a previous show. We’re always searching for new things in the music.”

Ms. Bridgewater originated the role of Billie Holiday in the play “Lady Day” on stages in Paris and London in the late 1980’s. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award "Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actress in a Musical” for the part. She had previously won the Tony Award for “Best Featured Actress in a Musical” for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wiz” on Broadway. A recent attempt to bring “Lady Day” to Broadway was shelved when financial backing disappeared.

Playing Billie Holiday every night during the show’s run took an emotional toll on her. “By the time we reached London, that woman had possessed me”, she recalls. “I really went thought some wild experiences with that show. At one point, people were writing me fan mail addressed to ‘Billie Holiday’. I can’t to this day figure out of the life of me why that happened – I mean my name was on the marquee big as life after all. Maybe people felt they saw her on stage.”

Ms. Bridgewater's first compilation CD, Midnight Sun, a remastered compilation of love songs from throughout her career, will be released on the DDB Records/Emarcy label, Aug. 23. Produced by her daughter Tulani Bridgewater-Kowalski, the CD is billed as "the ultimate mixed tape, traversing landscapes of melodically mournful tales of love lost, heartrending ballads about forever-afters and sultry promises of bliss." Watch this site for a full podcast interview with Ms. Bridgewater as we get closer to the release date.

Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center runs from Saturday, June 25 to Sunday, June 26.  Other artists scheduled to appear include Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright, The Bad Plus, Marcus Strickland, and many more on two stages.  For the complete lineup of artists and performances, please log onto Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival is produced by SPAC and Absolutely Live Entertainment.