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Album Review

Multiple award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater delivers an astounding masterwork complete with an entrancing set of original compositions and four reworked jazz classics on Red Earth. It is her ode to Mali and Africa — the story of a lost child finding her way home. Singing in the spirit that calls on her African and Malian ancestry and with reverence for jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald at their best, Bridgewater exudes the artistic depth she is revered for around the world. Recorded in Mali and featuring some of its most respected artists, this ambitious concept recording explores Malian and other African jazz roots on such songs as "Bani" (Bad Spirits), "Sakhodougou" (The Griots), "Oh My Love," and "Massane Cissé" (Red Earth). When it was written, "Bambo" (No More), composed by Tata "Bambo" Kouyaté, was so powerful that it led the government to abolish forced marriage in the 1960s. In addition to including "Bambo," such prominent female vocalists and outspoken women's rights advocates as Oumou Sangaré, Ramata Diakité, rising star Mamani Kéita, and Fatoumata "Mama" Kouyaté, the latter being hailed as the "golden voice of Mali," are prominently featured. "Bani," "Sakhodougou," and "Massane Cissé," which originated in the 12th and 13th centuries, are told in the oral tradition of "the Griots." In deference to the importance of these traditions, Bridgewater features lauded griots (musical and otherwise) Kassé-Mady Diabaté, up-and-coming talent Kabiné Kouyaté, Bassékou Kouyaté, Toumani Diabaté, and Baba Sissoko. On the jazz side, Bridgewater revisits "Afro Blue," previously released in 1974, with a new beginning, beautiful accentuation, and skillfully elongated lyrics. A favorite among jazz and folk vocalists, Nina Simone's "Four Women" also serves as a brilliant new showcase for Bridgewater's amazing vocals. This compelling song is reintroduced via an Edsel Gomez arrangement. Bridgewater weaves her emphatic emotions and storytelling expertise throughout Simone's heartfelt lyrics and simply holds you spellbound, compelling you to replay it more than once. For fans of Dee Dee Bridgewater, this masterwork is yet another brilliant testament to her linguistic versatility. On the Grammy-nominated J'Ai Deaux Amours, released in 2005, she sang in French as well as in English on a collection of French cabaret-style songs. With Red Earth she takes you into the depths of the African diaspora complete with references to several native dialects. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Jazz Vocal Album.


Born: 27 May 1950 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the best jazz singers of her generation, Dee Dee Bridgewater had to move to France to find herself. She performed in Michigan during the '60s and toured the Soviet Union in 1969 with the University of Illinois Big Band. She sang with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra (1972-1974) and appeared in the Broadway musical The Wiz (1974-1976). Due to erratic records and a lack of direction, Bridgewater was largely overlooked in the jazz world by the time she moved to France in the '80s. She appeared...
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Red Earth, Dee Dee Bridgewater
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