Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb.4
By Sabina Ahmadova - Trend:
Trend interviewed American jazz singer, three-time Grammy winner Dee Dee Bridgewater
Mrs Bridgewater, we are going to enjoy your fantastic concert at the Heydar Aliyev Center soon. And it will be your first visit to Azerbaijan. What are your impressions before the visit? What can you say about Azerbaijan and its culture?
-As it is my first visit, I really do not know much about your country at all to be very honest. So, I am very excited to come and learn about the country at least a little bit and to visit your capital city Baku. I have not actually done any research. Because I have been very busy with some other projects that I have to complete. I am just very excited.
- As far as I know, with your jazz band you toured the Soviet Union in 1966, when you were very young?
- Yes I did. I also went to Tbilisi in Georgia, Afghanistan.
- We hope you will enjoy sightseeing in our beautiful city.
- Yes, I am sure. And I am sure you have delicious traditional food I would like to try. I am very excited to come. Is jazz music well-known in Azerbaijan?
-Of course. We have very famous jazz musicians, who are well-known all over the world. One of them is Azerbaijani jazz singer Aziza Mustafazadeh, who is very popular especially in Europe.
- Ms. Bridgewater, every year jazz festivals are held in Baku and famous musicians take part at these festivals. What about you? Would you like to take part in such festivals held in our country?
- Of course. Yes. I would love to. You know, I am very happy for this first opportunity. And I hope there will be other opportunities too. I do hope so. When I was contacted, I said yes without any hesitation. So, I am very, very happy to come and discover. And I just hope that the people will like the music that I will bring and the musicians that I will bring with me. I am very proud to be coming.
-What will be your concert program at the Heydar Aliyev Center? What compositions will you present?
- I will probably do some songs from my latest CD Billie Holiday music (born Elenoara Fagan). I will probably do some maybe some other standards, I will maybe do some kind of fusion songs. I have not quite decided. For sure, some Billie Holiday. But I imagine that in Azerbaijan you are open to all kinds of music. Maybe I am going to do a song of Thelonius Monk for example, maybe I am going to do a song of Sonny Rollins. I am not quite sure. I am going to try and make a program that I feel will be very appealing to the audience.
- We will be very glad to listen to your songs. Ms. Bridgewater, what about a new album? Do you plan to release it in the near future?
- I hope to be able to record a new album in the fall of this year. I am going to start my research on this album in April. I was not able to record last year, because I decided to do some theatre. I did a play about Billie Holiday in New York City. I was involved with that play from August until January. It just closed in December. It is the play that is called "Lady Day". So, the music that I am going to work on for my next album will be blues music.
- And who is your inspiration? Who were your idols?
- My idols when I was growing up were very different. When I was growing up, I liked Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, I liked Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, I liked some singers that were not well-known. I loved James Brown, I'd sneaked out of my house to go and hear James Brown. Because my mother and father said I was too young, they wouldn't let me go, so I sneaked out when they were asleep. I like all different kinds of music. Of course, from jazz singers I loved Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae. Betty Carter was very big influence for me. Nancy Wilson was mainly very, very popular in the United States.
- You also were named ambassador to United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization.
- Yes. As a goodwill ambassador, my formal duty is to try to bring awareness to the FAO and their grassroots projects. The projects that they start in underprivileged, underdeveloped countries, to show villagers how to better sustain themselves. In more recent years, I have been asked to give speeches at the United Nations for different events that we - Food and Agriculture Organization have been involved in. And to attend meetings that the FOA has with other countries at the United Nations. That is what I have been doing more recently. But I also have visited countries where the cooperative(s) were started by the FAO - Senegal, Brazil and Mali.
- By the way, in one of your interviews, you said you would like to be a full-fledged diplomat.
- Yes, I still would. And now there is a possibility that FAO may make me a full-fledged diplomat. This may happen. I have just to sign some papers, some forms that FAO has sent me about this very possibility.
- You are also a human rights supporter, women's rights supporter.
-Yes, it is very important for me. It is very important for me to try to lend my voice to the causes that I believe in. And being a woman, I cannot stand by and keep silent about the problems that women have around the world. You know, here in the U.S. the Republican Party is trying to take away now a lot of our rights. And our reproductive rights. I have done a video speaking out about keeping our reproductive rights. I am very, very busy, concerned about women's rights in the U.S. Because, there is very strong movement by the republicans and the far right in the U.S. to take away a lot of women's rights. But at the same time, there is a very quite movement to try and take away the voting rights for African-American people.
- Mrs Bridgewater, what is the reason for such a great love of Jazz?
-My father was a jazz trumpeter. And my mother loved jazz singers. I have always listened to this music growing up as a little girl. It is in my blood. My mother was a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald. She said I could scat before I could speak. And I believe that it must be true because I have always known how to scat. I never had to study. It just was natural for me. I believe that my purpose, one of my main purposes in this lifetime is to carry forward this tradition of jazz vocal singing. I believe that.
- Where in the world would you like to perform if you could choose?
- It is a good question. I don't know. I think in Africa, Black Africa. I performed a lot in North Africa, but not in Black Africa. I would like to perform in a lot of other countries in the ex-Soviet Union. I have enjoyed very much, for example performing in, what used to be considered, in Eastern Europe. All of the ex- communist countries I would like to visit. I feel there is a lot of important culture that the world is missing from countries like Azerbaijan and I would like to get to know about it better.
-What do you plan and expect to see during your stay in Azerbaijan?
- I will be there two days. I don't know. Maybe I am going to try to take a tour of the city of course. Then have some nice food, traditional food. Can you recommend to me?
-Sure, you can have our traditional meal rice pilaf - plov in Azeri. And dolma. We have other delicious meals, salads.
-What is your message to your fans in Baku?
- I am coming to Baku with open heart, with open eyes and ears, and to try and share the love of this music with the people of Baku, to try and bring just a little bit of joy from my heart and the hearts of my musicians to the hearts of people of Baku.
I am very, very appreciative to the promoters, who have organized this visit for my musicians and for myself. I hope that the public will not be disappointed by the performance.
-We hope you will enjoy your visit to Baku. Thank you very much !
- I hope also. Thank you too!