Lady Sings the Blues

Jazz powerhouse Dee Dee Bridgewater has traveled the world over during the course of her four-decade career, and an upcoming March 31 gig at The Ritz Theatre & Museum marks Bridgewater’s first visit to Jacksonville. A Grammy and Tony Award-winner, Bridgewater visits the River City to perform “To Billie With Love: A Celebration of ‘Lady Day,’ ” a tribute to Billie Holiday. Bridgewater is not only an accomplished jazz great, she’s also the host of NPR’s award-winning weekly syndicated show, “JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater,” and the first American to be inducted to the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie. Folio Weekly caught up with Bridgewater from her home outside Las Vegas to chat about winning Grammys, working with family and the fight against world hunger.

Folio Weekly: You’ve won three Grammys, the most recent in 2011 for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee.” What does it feel like to win a Grammy?

Dee Dee Bridgewater: It’s got to be one of the most exhilarating moments, because you have won the Grammy by a vote of people in the music industry and from all different aspects of the music industry. So to have that honor — that distinction — is very … I can’t even describe it. For me, all three of my Grammys were like, “What? Me? What?” and I had to be pushed out of my seat. I had to be pushed out of my seat by my son for this one, because I was just sitting there. He was like, “Mom! You won!” I didn’t think I was going to hear my name, so I just kind of put myself in this zone.

F.W.: Your daughter, Tulani Bridgewater- Kowalski, is also your manager. You haven’t killed each other yet?

D.D.B.: Oh, we’ve been together now 12 years. When she suggested it — when I was looking for a manager here in the United States — she had been in personal management and she’d worked with people like George Benson, Michael Feinstein, Peter, Paul and Mary … she said, “Why don’t I be your manager?” and I said, “Oh, no. No, sweetie. That would destroy our relationship — our mother-daughter relationship.” Because she’s a very opinionated, headstrong woman and so am I. But I love working with my daughter. She’s a very brilliant woman and extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the music industry.

F.W.: She produced your first compilation album, 2011’s “Midnight Sun.” Tell me about that.

D.D.B.: I let her run with it. I said, “You want me to do this project? I don’t know, so you got to put it together because I’m not convinced.” I told her she had to find all of the material.

F.W.: How were the songs chosen?

D.D.B.: I’ve always had people asking me to do more ballads. I’m just a naturally energetic person, and I thought, “A ballad album? How boring. I would have nothing to do but sit and sing.” So when I was asked to do a compilation of a mishmash of songs from throughout my career — I like having themes and this had no theme — so I decided to go with an album of ballads.

F.W.: You’re a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. How did you got involved in the fight against world hunger?

D.D.B.: From my travels — especially when I was living in France — I did a lot of travels to Africa, Egypt and even some parts of Southeast Asia. I was just very humbled in these countries. More recently in China — once you leave your main cities, even if you go to the outer edges of the main cities, it’s shocking. It’s shocking that it [hunger] exists in the 21st century. In over a majority of Africa, there’s no running water. So that really struck me, and so I have always associated myself with organizations that are trying to help the poor and the hungry. So when they [the U.N.] asked me to be a Goodwill Ambassador, I was very eager to help.

Kara Pound

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