I am constantly feeling like a pillock for not knowing about things. This evening it was Dee Dee Bridgewater. She is, it would appear, an extremely famous jazz singer, the winner of three Grammys, and—if Google is anything to go by, anyway—the internet’s most frequently searched-for person called ‘Dee Dee’. Even Spotify Free, which I like to imagine is pretty bloody stupid, was able to tell me not only that she is ‘One of the best jazz singers of her generation’, but that she ‘had to move to France to find herself’. Quite why I needed to know this in the very first sentence of her Spotify biography I am not sure, but given my apparent level of knowledge, I am willing to believe that there is in fact a reason and remain eager to discover what this might be.
Her existence became apparent to me this evening via a review of a live concert on The Arts Desk, and this quickly led me to find out as much fact as I could about her most recent album, a tribute to Billie Holiday entitled Eleanora Fagan (1917-1959): To Billie With Love. Doing so, naturally, led me to discover just how limited my knowledge of Billie Holiday was too: not only does the album feature several apparently famous Holiday numbers I’d never heard of before, but I was also forced into discovering that she wrote a number of her own songs, including ‘Lady Sings the Blues’. Maybe you consider not knowing this to be perfectly fair enough, and maybe you don’t; I honestly have absolutely no idea, not only because I have no clue who you are but also because there’s a chance that not everyone considers such facts to be genuinely important. Or also because I have lost all confidence in my ability to determine what facts do and do not fit into what might reasonably be considered a decent rudimentary knowledge of jazz. Not that such a concept really makes much sense anyway. I still felt like I had one though. Until Dee Dee Bridgewater came along.
This was originally going to be about what I actually thought of the album. For what it’s worth, I thought it was great. And the cover of ‘Strange Fruit’ was as good as it could have been, given the scope of the original version, sounding as shocked and breathless as someone who had just heard the song for the first time. Well done Dee Dee Bridgewater.
But do you really want the opinion of someone who hadn't ever heard of Cecil Bridgewater, the hard bop trumpeter to whom Dee Dee Bridgewater was married in the 1970s, until earlier this evening?