Memphis...Yes, I'm Ready
DDB Records/ Okeh Records
Dee Dee Bridgewater's new release represents a change for the acclaimed, Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist as she pays tribute to her Memphis roots with this album of interpretations of some classic soul and blues of folks associated with Memphis. Dee Dee was born at Memphis' Collins Chapel Hospital, located not far from where the album was recorded at Producer Willie Mitchell's historic Royal Studios. Dee Dee's father, a trumpet player affectionately known as "Matt the Platter Cat," was a DJ at WDIA.
The album was co-produced by Memphis native and Grammy-winning musician Kirk Whalum, and Willie Mitchell's grandson - Grammy-winning Engineer Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell. It was recorded at Royal Studios in Fall 2016 after multiple visits by Bridgewater to Memphis over a period of several years. Working in Memphis at Royal Studios is like magic," says Bridgewater. "There's so much history that has been recorded in those walls. I just felt I could take this journey in that city with Kirk and Boo. They are my two kingpins and the two helped me realize this project and bring it to fruition."
About the music on this recording she states, "I wanted people to be able to recall the original versions, but I also wanted them to have a more modern feeling while respecting those originals. I'm doing B.B. King's 'Thrill Is Gone,' Bobby Blue Bland's 'Going Down Slow', Otis Redding's 'Try A Little Tenderness,' Al Green's 'Can't Get Next To You,' Ann Peebles' 'I Can't Stand The Rain' and The Staple Singers' 'Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)' - it just doesn't get any better than this in terms of material. The opportunity to make them my own was an opportunity and a challenge I felt honored to take on."
And when she opens with Carla Thomas' "B.A.B.Y." or sings Ann Peebles "'I Can't Stand The Rain," one hears the same authority that marked her jazz recordings. None of these performances are copies as the are subtle tweaks in the arrangements as well as the subtlety of he vocals. Standout tracks include a wonderful rendition of Elvis' hit "Don't Be Cruel" with a booting sax solo as well as her revamping of "Hound Dog" with a reggae groove. The arrangement for the strong rendition of "Going Down Slow," is adapted from a 1960s recording by Percy Mayfield of "The River's Invitation." Then there is her bluesy rendition, down in the alley version of The Temptations' "I Can't Get Next To You," akin to a similar arrangement by the DC blues-roots band The Nighthawks. There is a fervent rendition of the gospel classic "(Take My Hand) Precious Lord," along with a funky riff to help recast "Thrill is Gone," which she sings for B.B. (and I recall she sang at the Kennedy Center shortly after King's death).
Also standing out is the Staple Singers' "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)," before a rendition of the Barbara Lewis hit "Yes, I'm Ready," that helps give this recording its name. Usually one finds vernacular singers doing jazz-oriented projects, usually with mixed results. In this case, we have one of our generation's great jazz vocalists going in the opposite direction and her command as a singer along with terrific backing, make for a superb soul and blues recording.
I received as a download from a publicist to review. Here she sings "I Can't See The Rain."