July 26, 2021

Interview with Dee Dee Bridgewater

From 10 to 18 July Dee Dee Bridgewater will be in Italy for a series of concerts. The appointments are 10 at the Casa del Jazz in Rome; 11 at Lo Quater in Alghero; 13 at the Parco della Musica in Padua; on the 14th in Campli in the church of San Pietro in Campovalano; on the 15th at the Magnolia in Milan and on the 18th at the Parco delle Rose in Grado.

********

Mrs. Bridgewater, in July you will be in Italy for a new tour. There seems to be a special bond between her and our country.
Naturally! I have known and worked in Italy since the 1980s. I have a lot of fans, a lot of friends, and when I’m on tour in Europe that’s the country I look forward to most. For many years I have lived in France and have been to Italy more frequently. I was also with Ray Charles, in Sanremo with Marco Masini; then, many times on TV. I always find myself very well in Italy: it is my second home.

Would you like to talk about the musicians who will accompany you?
Actually I don’t know them personally, but I have listened to their works and we have heard in other ways. They were recommended to me by my Italian agent Enrico Iubatti. I can say that I am very happy to play with them, because they are very good and we have already understood each other perfectly. It’s a great group with Claudio Filippini at the piano, Mirco Rubegni on the trumpet, Michele Polga to saxophones, Rosa Brunello to the double bass ed Avoid Polidoro to the battery. I am happy that it is a democratic and also egalitarian quintet, since there are also two musicians in the quintet, besides me. I am very excited to be able to play with this group and I can’t wait to do it.

Have you already thought about the repertoire you will perform?
Certainly. I talked about it with Claudio Filippini and we discussed my ideas and agreed, therefore, to make a selection of the works of Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk ed Herbie Hancock. With Claudio, then, we also talked about performing ‘Round Midnight, which I have never sung in my life! Apart from this song, we decided not to perform jazz standards, but to do something different, perhaps drawing on my recording project «Memphis», più rhythm and blues, soul.

Among the many cities you have already visited, is there one that intrigues you more than the others?
I think I know Italy well but, unfortunately, always in passing. I have seen many beautiful cities, enchanting places. Maybe, but I don’t remember well, it’s my first time in Campli and Grado. Sometimes I happen to say: How nice, I’ve never been to this place! Then, however, I am denied …

Instead, which one would you like to visit?
If I were to spend a holiday period, I would almost certainly choose the Amalfi coast: there are many small towns that I would like to visit and get to know better. But I’m sure that, if I thought better, there would also be other cities.

Finally, despite the restrictions due to the anti COVID 19 protocols, we start again with the concerts. What was your experience with the pandemic period?
It was strange to stay at home, because it was the first time I didn’t have to work: not taking planes, cars, staying in different hotels. I had not considered, before this time, that my body was very tired and, therefore, I slept a lot at first. I paid attention to my home, which I hadn’t had time to do before, ever since I moved to New Orleans. It was the first time I didn’t have to move. During the pandemic I became a good observer and my attention was focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. I saw how the organization moved, what were the focal points that the movement supports and I was able to analyze and appreciate them. I gained awareness of the new claims for the rights of the African American people. I had already fought for these rights during the 1960s, taking part in the Black Panther Party movement and working for the integration of African American children in schools. Therefore, I realized in depth what the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement are, consulting the Internet, watching videos, reading newspaper articles. In the end, however, I realized I had much less money, because not working I only spent … Of course, I have always worked in the past and I hope to do it in the future, as well as in the present. But I spent a lot of money: not everyone knows that until 2017 I had to help my mother who was suffering from dementia and the treatment was very expensive. Here, for ten years the proceeds of my work have been donated to this cause. I am happy to own the house here in New Orleans, also to better protect my children. The pandemic has given me the opportunity to reflect, to have a different perception of the world. You know, it seems strange to me now to go back to the regularity of everyday life.

Of course, even if everything is still complicated.
In fact, for example, I could not have done this tour with American musicians, because I cannot take responsibility for their health, nor for the fact that if one of them was infected or suspected, he would have been quarantined with the risk of blowing up the tour. It must be said that the situation generated by the pandemic has left me with a sense of anxiety.

Is there a fear that the public is scared of all these complications?
I don’t think so, but it could be that he is tired or lazy during this long abstention from attending live shows. But let’s hope that’s not the case, on the contrary! The important thing is to be aware of the fact that we must not let our guard down. Unfortunately in the United States, better: in the states related to Donald Trump denial reigned, so no mask, no social distancing, no kind of precaution. The musician community was frightened by this irresponsible behavior, because the risk of contagion was very high. Now, resuming concerts is a strange situation for me. I sang in Aspen Colorado and my musicians refused to get vaccinated, because they are African American and were afraid of the consequences and wanted to see what happened first. My point is that if you are not vaccinated you cannot work. The situation, even today in the United States, is not very clear. In order to come to Italy, despite the vaccination, I will have to do a series of rapid swab tests. It is all much more complicated. Many people prefer not to travel. Personally, I trust a lot in my airline, Delta airlines.

She is a jazz icon. He has won several Grammy Awards, as well as numerous theatrical awards, including a Tony Award. Is there anything you still want to do?
Maybe to do more television and a film. However, I didn’t look for it much, because every time I was offered a role I was not available because I was on tour. If the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to.

In your opinion, when has jazz changed from its origins to today? And most importantly, has it changed for the better or for worse?
No changes. Jazz is a music born to be constantly evolving. It is the opposite of classical music which, despite different arrangements, orchestral directions, cannot be changed that much. The term jazz is what was given to this music by the oppressors and not by the real creators. The Black American Music movement was not born recently: you have to go back in history to find its true essence. Nicholas Payton is attentive to this situation. Everything done by the African American people has a label. You are Italian whatever you do. We were colored, negro, black, now we are African-Americans. What does it matter what we are? We cannot be labeled as the color of a dress! My goal is to make music, to bring emotions to the audience and that this can be inspired by my music. My goal is to be myself as an artist, as a person and to do things in the best possible way. Jazz is a global music, it does not have a single geographical identity to which it belongs.

What song do you like most to perform live?
I don’t have one in particular. I choose all the material I like and want to perform. In general my favorite composers are Chick Corea, with whom I started my artistic career, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim. I’ve grown up with them since I was 20 and we were in New York. With Stanley I made my first album. Chick was very important to me, as well as Wayne Shorter.

What’s on Dee Dee Bridgewater’s diary?
My main goal is to stay alive! I am working on a live recording project concerning my concerts at the Blue Note in New York. Then, some other exciting projects that will start in September, after I finish residing in some jazz festivals, such as the Detroit jazz festival where I will be accompanied by a big band. Then, since 2019 I have been the mentor of an assistance project for women of jazz to offer advice in the world of the music business and be able to build a personal career, because in music schools these are aspects that are not cared for.
Alceste Ayroldi