Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Jazz Trip with Clifford & Dee Dee

By Guest Blogger, Sydney Schumacher, Public Relations Assistant, Arts in Media

The DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, held in Wilmington’s Rodney Square, is clearly a crowd favorite. When I arrived Saturday evening (the last night of the festival which ran June 18-23), the square was absolutely packed. The group on stage is Hiromi: The Trio Project with Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips, and they have all eyes on them.  Hiromi is a jazz pianist from Japan who fell in love with the genre after years of classical music training. Her fellow bandmates, Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips, show off their talents on supporting instruments. Their music is sans vocals, but the energy and enthusiasm of Hiromi is completely infectious, and listening to her play ’70s style jazz is fun and engaging. Overhearing people around me, I found two consistent comments: “She is the cutest person!” and “Look how much fun she’s having!” Unfortunately (for me), I was late arriving and only got to enjoy a song and a half, but that was enough for me to prove their musical prowess!

Next up, and the closing act for the festival, was a group who travelled all the way from the Virgin Islands—Dee Dee Bridgewater and her band. Ms Bridgewater, the lead singer, has a fantastic, old-school, smoky jazz voice and a talent for scat, which is harder and harder to find in jazz artists. Backing her up was a pianist, an upright bass player, a drummer, and a reeds/flute player. Aside from Ms. Bridgewater, the latter was my favorite.  He had sharp, fast fingers and a wonderful, soulful sound. In my opinion, it’s hard to be a saxophone player. The sound of that instrument isn’t always pleasing, and can make or break a song. However, the player in Ms. Bridgewater’s band (whose name I didn’t catch) did a magnificent job, and I could’ve listened to a performance of him alone. They did a few Billie Holiday songs, an Ella Fitzgerald or two, and what sounded like a few originals scattered in. My favorite was when Ms. Bridgewater announced they were going “off-the-cuff, unrehearsed” with a version of Joy Song, to honor Clifford Brown, the namesake of the festival. This song is fast-paced and packed with words, and she warned the crowd, “I’m gonna try to get these lyrics…but if I can’t get ’em, I’m just gonna scat!” Her effort was impressive; she made it through the first bit splendidly but then got a bit tongue-tied, playfully exclaiming “Oh shoot!” and scatting the rest of the song—which was just as enjoyable, because she does it so well! Hopefully, Dee Dee Bridgewater and her band will be traveling back to Wilmington more often.

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