The Kennedy Center

Dee Dee Bridgewater


Jazz critics find the dazzling jazz vocalist and stage actress Dee Dee Bridgewater has been called "a combination of class, exuberance and cool." Ms. Bridgewater, a consummate performer and entertainer of the highest caliber, has taken her place alongside such legendary singers as Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Dinah Washington. She received two 1998 Grammies ("Best Jazz Vocal performance" and "Best Instrumental Arrangements with Accompanying Vocals") for her stunning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Dear Ella (Verve Records) winning "Best Jazz Vocal Performance" and "Best Instrumental Arrangements with Accompanying Vocals."  Nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in the musical Lady Day, she also received in 1998 France's top honor, the Victoire de la Musique (Best Jazz Vocal Album).

Ms. Bridgewater spent much of the 1970's and 1980's on stages from Broadway to Paris in such musicals as The Wiz (1975 Tony Award for "Best Featured Actress"), Sophisticated Ladies, Lady Day (as Billie Holiday), Carmen, and Cabaret, for which she became the first black actress to play the role of Sally Bowles. She later moved to Paris, where she soon became the toast of France, appearing in concerts, clubs and at festivals, and she hosted a popular jazz radio series and co-hosted a national jazz television program. Ms. Bridgewater, who had performed Billie Holiday's character in Lady Day in Paris, also took part in the creation there of the opera Cosmopolitan Greetings by George Gruntz and Allen Ginsberg. Her return to jazz marked by a number of critically acclaimed Verve recordings: Keeping Tradition (1992), Love and Peace, an album devoted to the music of Horace Silver (1994), the Grammy Award-winning album Dear Ella (1997), and Live at Yoshi's, a collection of performances recorded April 23, 24, and 25, 1998 in Oakland, California's premier jazz club. After a three-year tour, Ms. Bridgewater made released her latest recording, This is New (2002).

Ms. Bridgewater was born Denise Garrett on the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis. Her father, trumpeter Matthew Garrett, was her first major musical influence. After attending school in Flint, Michigan where the family had relocated, She began singing and started a vocal trio that performed rock and rhythm 'n' blues in area clubs. But with a trumpeter father and a mother who loved Ella Fitzgerald's records, the young artist turned to jazz. In 1969, Ms. Garrett toured the Soviet Union with the University of Illinois jazz band. She followed then husband trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater to New York where she made her debut as the lead vocalist for one of the premiere jazz orchestras of the time, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band, which also included her husband and his brother Ronald. These New York years marked an early career in concerts and on recordings with such authentic giants as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Billy Harper, Roland Kirk, Cecil McBee, and Max Roach, and rich experiences with Norman Conners, Stanley Clarke, and Frank Foster's big band, "Loud Minority."

As Ambassador to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (since October 1999), Ms. Bridgewater works alongside those engaged in the battle against world hunger. In addition to all her roles, she is the host of NPR's JazzSet© with Dee Dee Bridgewater.  Acting as the jazz lover's ears and eyes on the world of live music, she presents today's best jazz artists in performance on stages around the world, taking listeners to Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as Marciac in the French countryside and across the North American continent from Montreal to Monterey. 

Ms. Bridgewater performed in the Terrace Theater for the first time on March 24, 2000. Since then she has returned to be part of several sold-out concerts including a lavish, all-star 80th birthday tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor (February 20, 2002 in the Eisenhower Theater), and her own program in the Terrace paying tribute to composer Kurt Weill (Gettin' Weill'd") on October 18, 2002. 

Last updated: March 1, 2007
Photo of Dee Dee Bridgewater

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