Friday Evening October 7, 2005 at Founders Hall in the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, California, Dee Dee Bridgewater opened a two-night, four-set stand as part of the tenth season of the Jazz Club Series. Dee Dee has just released J’ai Deux Amours, a remarkable album from its retro packaging and glamour photography to the eleven very memorable songs sung for the most part in French. The CD includes liner notes of the highest caliber. Dee Dee is joined by four very fine musicians and for the first time, Dee Dee arranges the songs she sings.
This recording is Dee Dee’s first on her own label, DDB Records. J’ai Deux Amours is distributed in the United States by as Dee Dee says, "this wonderful little jewel of a label," Sovereign Artists. International distribution is by Universal.
I spoke with Dee Dee Bridgewater by phone on the Tuesday morning after the concert.
JAZZREVIEW: I saw you perform Friday night at Founders Hall.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I’m glad you came Friday because on Saturday, I hit my head and on Saturday night I was
JAZZREVIEW: Are you okay?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes. Instead of giving stitches now they glue you together with derma bond, but I had a mild concussion so I was a little spacey.
JAZZREVIEW: I’m very sorry to hear that.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Did you like the show?
JAZZREVIEW: I loved it!
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Good.
JAZZREVIEW: I thought it was great. I was sitting about ten feet behind your piano player, Edsel Gomez.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Oh isn’t he wonderful?
JAZZREVIEW: Yes the whole thing, the whole band was great.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Terri Lynn [Carrington] is fantastic.
JAZZREVIEW: Yes, she is. It was just one of those dynamite shows. I’m glad that you are okay, but I’m sad that the Jazz Club Series shows are only seventy-five minutes long.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I know.
JAZZREVIEW: But it’s nice, the four sets let a thousand people see the show in a great setting, and that’s a good thing. You now live in Paris?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: No. I lived in Paris, if you add up all the years, probably 20 years. I still have a place there, but my main house, my home is in Nevada.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yeah.
JAZZREVIEW: Well, I lived in Paris in 1981.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: You did?
JAZZREVIEW: Yes. I lived on Rue Bougainvillea, just up the street from "Maison Radio Francaise". I go there as often as I can. I just love that city. So your new album J’ai Deux Amours, wow, it’s a wonderful, wonderful album.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Thank you very, very much. I was just saying my daily mantra, "God, please let it work, please let it work, please let it work."
JAZZREVIEW: Well I think it works tremendously well.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Aww. Thank you.
JAZZREVIEW: Is this the first album on your new label?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes. It certainly is. I’m kind of excited. Universal does the distribution in the rest of the world, except the States. Sovereign Artists, this wonderful little jewel of a label that we found here is doing the distribution here in the States. So DDB Records is kind of a vanity label because I didn’t want to go through hiring people and starting a full fledged label like Branford did. I can’t do that. It’s too much. So Sovereign takes care of the actual distribution, the marketing, radio and all of that. But with my main deal with Sovereign, this is just a one off situation. They will listen to the next project and if they want to distribute here in the States, they will; if not, I will have to find another label to do distribution for my next project, which will be an African project.
JAZZREVIEW: Oh, wow!
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes, I’m signed with Universal, the international headquarters, which are based in London. They actually signed me for three specific projects and these are projects that I’ve wanted to do since I did the Dear Ella album. I put everything off. I was married to Ella for five years, as Ray Brown said I would be. Yeah, so this is an album I wanted to do back in...I had the idea in ‘95. We were putting materials together and then Ella died in ‘96 and that just kind of
No one [at Universal] was doing a tribute to her. When I was signed, the label was still Verve. Universal was still Polygram. It was Polydor in France and then I don’t know what it was over here in the States. When I signed in France, it was still being called Verve records. I thought it was terrible that at this label, which had been started for Ella, there was no one who was doing anything for her. So I made the choice to do something. Everything got derailed that I wanted to do after the Horace Silver project. So there you go.
JAZZREVIEW: Tell me about making J’ai Deux Amours.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: The reason I didn’t want piano and drums is in the pull out. We did our own arrangements, which was a first for me. Usually when I do albums. I hire arrangers. My former husband has become my fetish arranger because he understands me musically. I can just give him very vague ideas and he comes back to me with something that resembles it. He doesn’t have a problem with me changing an arrangement, which a lot of the arrangers do. They want you to keep the arrangements intact. I’ve had to explain to arrangers that I hire you, I pay you to do something based on my musical ideas because I’m not technically capable of doing it myself. But I’ve paid for this arrangement, which gives me the right to do with it what I want, don’t you think?
JAZZREVIEW: Yes I would agree. Now Jean-Marie Durand, is it he who is doing your arranging?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: That’s my husband. That’s my man, but no, the arrangements on this album were done by the musicians and myself. My husband basically put together the recording of this album and made all the calls to people whom I’ve worked with in the past; my graphic artist, my photographer--and just kind of set the time period with people because I have been in and out of a depression since my stepfather passed away in 2001. I’m just now coming back. It’s taken me four years. My mommy is still not coming back. I’m coming back now and I slapped his hands because he’s trying to organize my African project. I said "I’m Okay now! I can do it," but he’s enjoying it to. I’m like, "No I don’t want that person, "but he is actually the one who kind of got me up off my butt in doing this project. So that’s why.
Cecil Bridgewater was my first husband. He did arranging for me on my last album This is New. He did all of the arrangements on that. He did some of the arrangements on the Dear Ella album. He’s doing orchestral arrangements for me now.
JAZZREVIEW: Alright. Have you done a Josephine Baker project?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: No, I have not done a Josephine Baker Project per se. I thought that I would title this project J’ai Deux Amours because like Josephine, I have this career here and in Europe, primarily in France, and I’ve been asked to put a special concert together in St. Louis for next April. I don’t know why they didn’t want to do it around her birthday, but at any rate that’s the only thing I’m doing. I’m talking with a television network in France because they’re thinking about doing something. You just reminded me I haven’t heard from them, so I have to give them a buzz.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yeah, I have had several people ask me about that at different periods of time. While I was living in France, I got four scripts on Josephine Baker, but they were four really bad scripts so I refused them all. I was honorary president of the Josephine Baker Association in France and even cut the ribbon for renaming of the big place in Sallat, which is a city next to Milland where her chateau is. I actually cut the ribbon on that and presided over a whole Josephine Baker weekend in Sallat back in the early 90’s. I know four of her children and my aunt I have a great aunt, had a great aunt since she’s passed away, on my father’s side who is actually the woman responsible for getting Josephine Baker to move to France.
JAZZREVIEW: What is her name?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Her name is Lottie Gee, and on just about every biography and autobiography, she’s mentioned for being responsible, so I have a connection.
JAZZREVIEW: Oh, that’s very nice.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yeah, that’s cool.
JAZZREVIEW: I understand that in addition to two roses being named for you, there’s a theater named after you, also.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I have a theater named after me in a city, a small city outside of Paris in the Val d’ Oise. That’s the valley of the Oise River. I’ve lived in a city called Parmain for the last twelve years. So in the city on the other side of the Oise River, which is called Ile d’Adam, the Isle of Adam, they named a theater after me. Yes, "The Dee Dee Bridgewater Theater."
JAZZREVIEW: Is this a performing arts theater?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes it is, a small one. This is a city of forty-thousand people. So when they have special programs, yes, they have them in the theater.
JAZZREVIEW: The two roses, what are they like?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: One is a long stem, yellow rose that is a long lasting rose; it can last up to three weeks. The other is a garden rose, how do you call it, a vine rose and it’s pink and has a wonderful perfume to it. These roses were created by a florist for a company called Meilland. But you know, with all of the problems that have arisen since the war in Iraq and the agriculture laws here in the States, it cannot be distributed here in the States, the French rose.
JAZZREVIEW: Oh. I’ll have to go to France then.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Whenever I do concerts that I want to be kind of special, they will send me five or six dozen of my roses and I will have them strewn all over the stage. For J’ai Deux Amours when I did my concerts in Paris, they sent my roses so that I could decorate the stage. When I want to send special gifts, I call up the company and they will arrange a special bouquet. I’ve sent them to [Jacques] Chirac. I’ve sent them to heads of television shows that I’ve done, and journalists and things like that.
JAZZREVIEW: That’s pretty cool.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes, it is. I’m pretty spoiled in France.
JAZZREVIEW: Unfortunately, where I am in Orange County, I don’t get Jazz Set.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: It’s not on KLON any more?
JAZZREVIEW: It’s now KJAZZ.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I don’t think they have my show either. I am going to call them up and ask them what’s up with that.
JAZZREVIEW: You should call and speak with Judy Jankowski.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I’ve met Judy and when I was driving home yesterday, I was listening and just as I turned it on, Helen Borger was playing "How High The Moon" from Dear Ella. And I thought I need to call them up and see what the problem is.
JAZZREVIEW: It’s money. I help out with the pledge drives. I’ve fed the volunteers and it’s money. They’re strapped and they are working very hard. Maybe they could cut some other show, I even have one I could suggest, but I won’t.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: You know, all of the public radio stations are strapped, all of them. This government has cut back on funds appropriated to public radio. There was even, they were going to cut out National Public Radio. That is what the government had suggested, but enough people said no. Were you aware of that?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: It’s all political. Sometimes I have to put my hand over my mouth.
JAZZREVIEW: Many people are.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I think this is part of our problem. People are putting their hands over their mouths.
JAZZREVIEW: Well, hopefully, next year people will put their hands on the right levers.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I don’t know man, I don’t know.
JAZZREVIEW: But getting away from that horrible subject.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes, let’s get back to music.
JAZZ REVIEW: The last page of the liner notes for J’ai Deux Amours is just this wonderful generous thanks to so many people. And going through it is nice because you’ve got the cardboard album. It’s like an old time album, only it’s a little smaller and when you are listening to the music, you’ve got something to read and do things with. And
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: You know, you are the first and only person who caught that.
JAZZREVIEW: Oh. Really?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yes, you’re the only person who mentioned that. The photos, the fact that we did it in black and white, I wanted it to be a reminder of the 50’s--you know the glamour period of the 50’s. Christian Dior loaned me all those gorgeous gowns that I wore.
JAZZREVIEW: Yes, you are quite stunning on the album.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Christian Dior Haute Couture gowns, that I couldn’t even, you know, they’re as much as a down payment on a house. The one on the inside, the black one, it was fifty thousand Euros. Who buys these things? The one on the front cover was twenty-five thousand Euros and you could roll it up and put in a paper bag. In fact, they sent it over to me in a paper bag. And that little feathery stole on the cover was twenty thousand Euros. Anyway, I was trying to do it like that.
I remember when I was little and my daddy had his albums, you could always read on some of the insides when you pulled out the sleeves. They would have the whole story about the artist or just the whole story about the jazz of the period. And that was just what I wanted it to be. You’re the very first. Thank you.
JAZZREVIEW: You’re welcome. But I went through the album and I felt really great about that. I looked through all the photos and my French is really terrible, but I can read the lyrics in French and when I got to the back page, after all that hard work, you just can’t give enough thanks to people.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Well, it’s very important for me to acknowledge the people involved in my projects. I’ve done it with every album. I do it all the time. I try to. I thank the people who come to hear me, you know, because you don’t have to come and hear me, you can do something else. I appreciate that people take time out of their day or their evening and organize themselves if they have children, to come out. I am very, very grateful--especially today. There are many, many choices, so people that are involved in my career, I’m very, very grateful to them. I want to leave out of this world with good Karma, because I don’t plan on coming back.
JAZZREVIEW: You will be off the wheel of rebirth.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Yeah, I’m done. I’ve gone to three psychics and I’ve got some psychic abilities that I’ve kind of kept a lid on because it’s kind of scary. Two of the psychics are people who were born with veils over their eyes and who work with the police and the FBI and CIA. They have told me that this is my final earth trial and I said, "Thank God."
JAZZREVIEW: But you know that we are losing too many good singers.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: I don’t know what’s going on with this earth and I don’t know where we are going spiritually or morally. The fact that our country has tried for so long to squash a music form that is one of our only original music forms from the United States, it just baffles me. That today, the major labels are trying to get rid of black jazz singers, just blows my mind. You can’t be a jazz singer today unless you’re white. For so many years, white singers were not really allowed, so finally when Universal was able to make Diana Krall a household name with all that money they spent on her, then all of a sudden it was the season for all the white singers. When I turn on the radio I don’t hear Cassandra [Wilson]; I don’t hear Diana Reeves anymore; I don’t hear Nnena Freelon; I don’t hear my girlfriend Vanessa Ruben, I don’t even hear Lizz Wright, who for me, isn&&&t really a jazz singer. Unfortunately, this country is turning into black and white again. I don’t understand.
JAZZREVIEW: I thought that was all over in the seventies, actually. When I was in Ft. Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, we all got together just fine. Then I moved out to Orange County and found that apartheid still exists. Additionally, one of the problems that I had with the music business is that you would go into the jazz section and the most recent album would be from 1961, wonderful great music. Yet I knew people were still making this music because I would go to places and hear musicians playing jazz. Now are they making it. I think taking New Orleans and taking the African Americans out of jazz kind of is like making fake jazz.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: My take on it is that the major labels, the corporations are reinventing or redefining what jazz is so that they can sell it, market it and make money off of it. The musicians who were trying to be innovative who were called the young lions in the 90’s, when Verve discovered that if they marketed the music and the musicians they could make some money off of it, most of them are without labels today.
When they were able to turn Diana Krall into a superstar, that act paved the way for this whole new definition of jazz. It’s unfortunate to say jazz has become very white; that you put a color on it; that you eliminate a particular race of people; you talk about it, but yes, they have redefined it. If you go into the public schools and you ask little kids, even little black kids to name me a jazz musician they’ll name Kenny G; they’ll name Diana Krall. Well now they’ll say Nora Jones. I don’t mind Nora Jones, because Nora Jones says she’s not a jazz singer. It’s the label that has pushed her and because it’s "Blue Note," your immediate association with Blue Note, which did such an amazing series of jazz recordings back in the day, still has that jazz connotation to it, even though they signed Al Green. But they didn’t go so far as to say Al Green is a jazz singer, because we all know he isn’t. But it has just allowed these labels to sign all these artists who fall between the cracks.
The categories have gotten so narrow now, that smooth jazz is getting the spill over of everything that was jazzy, your Steely Dans. Sáde is now smooth jazz. Anybody that is no longer pop music is being called jazz. Rhythm and blues--where is rhythm blues today? Turn on a smooth jazz station, you’ll get some of everything and they’re calling it all jazz. So it is. All of these people whose categories have fallen into a big black hole, they’re just reinventing everything today. Anyway, what can we say?
JAZZREVIEW: That’s why it is good to have KLON [KKJZ 88.1 FM]. Is there anything else that we need to talk about?
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: We’ve covered the whole gamit. And I now have my next interview.
JAZZREVIEW: Well thank you so much, Dee Dee.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: You are so very welcome. It was nice to talk to you. I’m glad you enjoyed the show. Thank you for coming.
JAZZREVIEW: I loved it and the next time you are out here in LA, I’ll be to that show too.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: Take care
JAZZREVIEW: You too.