Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Brings Memphis Soul to Yoshi’s
A jazz diva lets her Memphis soul side shine in a two-night run at Yoshi’s.
At Yoshi's: Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Photo courtesy The Kurland Agency
Though Dee Dee Bridgewater was born in Memphis, she spent her adolescence in Flint, an hour or so north of Detroit.
The move didn’t change her musical allegiances. Like just about everyone in her generation, she loved the hits coming out of Motown, but the sounds that moved her soul were the tracks that made Memphis synonymous with gritty horns, imploring vocals, and fiercely funky grooves.
“I loved anything that was gutbucket and lowdown, talking about men and alcohol and having no money,” she said. “It’s always stayed this little secret of mine.”
She kept her abiding passion for Southern R&B on the down low because Bridgewater was making her way as one of the era’s definitive jazz vocalists. A wildly charismatic performer who starred on Broadway (earning a Tony for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz), Bridgewater is an NEA Jazz Master who has spent much of her career alternately expanding the repertoire for fellow jazz singers or paying tribute to the masters who influenced her (namely, Ella Fitzgerald, Horace Silver, and Billie Holiday).
But in 2017, the three-time Grammy Award winner let her soul secret out with Memphis . . . Yes, I’m Ready (OKeh), and she brings the project back to the Bay Area for a series of shows, including a two-night run at Yoshi’s March 20-21. For jazz fans used to seeing Bridgewater command the stage with an interactive trio or quartet, her eight-piece Memphis Soulphony is a revelation. Rather than creating a soul/jazz hybrid, she unleashes her inner R&B diva with an unadulterated blast of soul, complete with two women backup singers, two clarion horn players, and a lithe and churning organ. It’s a role she was born to play, and she’s clearly having the time of her life.
Dee Dee Bridgewater, 8 p.m. Wed.-Thu., March 20-21, $39-$84, Yoshi’s, Oakland, 510-238-9200, Yoshis.com.