2015 Berklee Honorary Doctorate: Dee Dee Bridgewater

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Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater has had an exciting career with many great highlights. Bridgewater was exposed to music at an early age; her father, Matthew Garrett, was a trumpeter who taught many musical greats, such as Charles Lloyd and George Coleman, and her mother played Ella Fitzgerald records in the home when Bridgewater was young.

Bridgewater, born Denise Eileen Garrett, was born on May 27th, 1950, in Memphis, Tennessee, and was raised in a Catholic home in Flint, Michigan. Her big debut was in 1969, when she toured the Soviet Union with the University of Illinois Big Band. She eventually moved to New York with her then-husband, jazz trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, who played with Horace Silver’s group. Bridgewater made her New York debut in 1970 with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band. 

Her first album release was Afro Blue in 1974. She also was part of the Broadway musical  The Wiz, for which she won a Tony award for “Best Featured Actress” in 1975 for her role as Glinda the Good Witch. In 1976, the soundtrack won a Grammy award for “Best Musical Show Album”. Since her musical debut, she has performed in other award-winning musical shows in great cities of the world, such as Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and London.

The recordings below feature some of Bridgewater’s highlights. Listen to how well her voice blends with Christian McBride’s bass on their duo cover of “It’s Your Thing”, an Isley Brothers tune. Bridgewater has always been very fond of Horace Silver’s music and has had tributes for him many times, including at the 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival; Bridgewater performed “Filthy McNasty” with an all-star line-up featuring Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Benny Green on piano, Christian McBride on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. As mentioned, Bridgewater’s career started with playing with Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band; in the third clip, they cover the famous standard “Bye Bye Blackbird” in a studio in Japan. The fourth clip features “Afro Blue” from her 1974 debut album, Afro Blue. The last clip is from the International Jazz Day in 2012, where she covers “On Broadway” with George Benson.

Christian McBride and Dee Dee Bridgewater – It’s Your Thing
Monterey Jazz Festival 2013 Performance
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band with Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater – Afro Blue
George Benson and Dee Dee Bridgewater – On Broadway


          February 10, 2018