Holly Burke

Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist, and the Hollywood Jazz Orchestra will honor jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald with a tribute concert entitled “Dear Ella” tonight at the Christopher Cohan Center.

Bridgewater, whose first singing job was as a member of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Louis Big Band, has also performed with jazz musicians Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie.

“I feel very lucky to have started with a big band,” she said. “Many young jazz musicians today do not have that background.”

Bridgewater later signed with the Verve label as a performer and producer.

“I see myself as a performer who records, not the other way around,” Bridgewater said.

In 1997, Bridgewater received two Grammy Awards for “Dear Ella,” her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

“I’ve been on a five-year walk with Ella and will continue. I’ll always do tributes to Ella,” Bridgewater said.

Bridgewater currently spends her time split between France and the U.S. Her most recent project is “J’ai Deux Amours (Two Loves Have I),” inspired by French love songs.

Because of her work, Bridgewater was made a member of “Haut Conseil de la Francophonie,” an organization that recognizes people who have made important contributions to French culture and society.

Bridgewater is also now hosting “JazzSet,” on National Public Radio.

Her next recording project will be combining the acoustic instruments of Mali with jazz. She will cover songs by Nina Simone, Wayne Shorter, Della Reese and Herbie Hancock.

“I don’t want to do some commercial thing because Mali is popular right now,” Bridgewater said. “I feel I am a part of Mali.”

Bridgewater feels that she has a spiritual connection to the people of Mali, and that Mali is a part of her African heritage. In Mali, she hopes to record with musicians whom could not obtain Visas to work in France.

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