CULTURE

A doyenne of jazz at Club 22

Dee Dee Bridgewater considers herself a European even though she was born in Memphis, Tennessee. She left the US in the 1980s and moved to Paris, where she lived for several years and where, she says, she discovered herself as an artist, explored new musical fields and won the respect of the public. One of the leading ladies of jazz, Bridgewater will be coming to the Greek capital on November 9 to perform pieces from her latest album, «J’ai deux amours» – a wonderful compilation of French love songs, such as «La mer» and «Ne me quitte pas» – and old favorites, at Club 22. Last week, Kathimerini had the opportunity to get in touch with her while she was in Nevada and get her opinions on jazz, the United States and President George W. Bush. You have been in Nevada for quite some time, yet you say you consider Paris your home. I am near my mother who needs me right now. When she decides that it is her time to go, I may return. Until then though, I will be by her side. All-European An American in Paris then. What made you stay there for so long? Going there was the best move I ever made in my career. I found myself, as an artist and as a woman. I developed my art and encountered new cultures and musical forms. I don’t think I would have been able to do all that in the States. That is why I feel European. My tastes, my opinions, the way I approach art – are all European. Does that mean that you believe artistic freedom is more available in Europe than in the States? Absolutely. I felt free. Paris is a multicultural hub that opens up all sorts of new horizons. In Europe, artists still have the freedom to explore and experiment. In the US, there are so many lines defining what is good and what is not. What music is good and what music is not. Everything is judged by money. It wasn’t always that way, but now it is. And it kills creativity. I am very happy to be able to record in Paris. All my albums have been recorded there, except «Dear Ella,» which had to be done in the States because the musicians I wanted to work with were there. The album I will be presenting in Athens comprises classic French songs, beautiful pieces with poetic lyrics and wonderful melodies, and basically it is my thanks for the love that country has shown me. It took a while for you to be recognized in the United States. How do you feel about that, especially since there are so many young singers who have not proven their worth to the extent that you have in the limelight? There was a time when I felt like a neglected child in America. I’ve gotten over it now. But you mentioned the young singers who are very popular right now and I would like to stay on this subject. Norah Jones, for example, and Diana Krall are two very good singers. But they are focusing on the wrong things and are therefore not developing their art. They have chosen to live in gilded cages, by the rules of the recording companies that are milking them. Labels do not hear your music, but the sound of money tinkling, and when this sound dies down, they show you the door. There’s another thing too. When you have a young talent like Norah Jones and you call her a great jazz vocalist, people start to believe that all there is to jazz is what Norah Jones thinks and all the other singers who are much closer to traditional jazz suddenly become passe. Artists must be promoted and supported by their recording companies as artists and not labeled. Do you feel that there is a large chasm separating the generations of jazz? I believe that Diana Reeve, who is just a few years younger than me, is the last great jazz singer, because she doesn’t think just as a singer, but also as a musician. And this is the only way to keep the edge, to present a variety of different things and to become better. You recently began your own small label. Are you going to be scouting for young talent? I care for young people and I want to help them. And not just singers, but musicians too, whose role has become diminished because the lights always fall on the singer. Singers must realize that without the musicians, they are nothing. Does it irritate you that jazz is often mixed with other genres? No. Art must always be tuned in to its times and stay one step ahead. It is completely healthy. And I believe that all the innovation we see in jazz today has come from Europe and not from the States. Generally, hope lives in Europe. The US is ‘bleeding’ Is there anything you like about the United States today? America is bleeding. We have a dictatorship by an illegal government which waged an illegal war in Iraq, destroys the environment, is leading its people into poverty, cultivates fear and racism. Not only have we lost all our humanist values but the cornerstone of this country, the freedom of expression as it was outlined many, many years ago in the Declaration of Independence, has been shattered. The information that reaches people’s ears is very specific, so it is of no surprise that they can’t see beyond their own noses. And people who express a different point of view are branded as unpatriotic and may even find themselves up against a court. You are being quite harsh… At 55, I am a realist. Tickets for Dee Dee Bridgewater’s concert, at Club 22 on November 9, can be purchased at Metropolis music stores, Ticket House and online at 111.i-ticket.gr. They are priced at 35 euros in standing areas, and 50 euros in seating areas. This interview was translated from the Greek text.