Tavis: Always pleased and honored to welcome Dee Dee Bridgewater back to this program. The multiple Grammy winner is out now with a new album called “Dee Dee’s Feathers” with Grammy Award-winning artist, Irvin Mayfield, who also joins us tonight.
The album is an homage to the people and culture of New Orleans on this 10th anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina. The project features the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra of which Irvin is the founding director.
And later on, they’ll treat us to not one–how lucky are we–but two songs backed tonight by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble. So Irvin, Dee Dee and Thelonious Monk Jazz Ensemble. This will be a great party. I got two questions I want to get out the way right quick [laugh].
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Okay, get them out the way.
Tavis: I want to make time for the performance. First of all, it’s good to see you.
Bridgewater: It’s wonderful to see you, Tavis.
Tavis: And I thank you for bringing Irvin with you.
Bridgewater: Of course.
Tavis: First of all, put that cover back up, Jonathan. I was saying to Dee Dee, this is a lovely, lovely cover. I teased Irvin earlier. I said I think Dee Dee’s head looks better [laugh]. It is a gorgeous cover. How did this come to be, Dee Dee?
Bridgewater: Well, you know, when we decided to do this project and make it a commercial project, I said to Irvin that I wanted to have only people from New Orleans involved in the project. So the photographer’s name is Greg Miles and we wanted to just have something that was very symbolic of the city. So we shot this in a home in the French Quarter that dates back to the late 1700s, right?
Irvin Mayfield: That’s right.
Bridgewater: And when we saw that cover, we were like that’s gorgeous, the photo, I mean. It was gorgeous.
Tavis: And musically, what did you want to accomplish and did you hit your mark?
Bridgewater: I think we really hit our mark. We wanted to celebrate New Orleans and we wanted to take numbers that dated back to the earlier period up to the present, and it actually is Mr. Mayfield that made the selection of the songs because I am a neophyte when it comes to New Orleans and this gentleman is born and bred there. So he was the one that made all the suggestions and educated me on a lot of the history of the songs that we did.
Tavis: And what did you educate her on and what are we gonna learn by hearing the project, Irvin?
Mayfield: Well, we know that’s not true if you say educate Dee Dee Bridgewater on something [laugh].
Tavis: That’s oxymoronic, isn’t it, yeah?
Mayfield: Yeah. I think, you know, people think of the city of New Orleans as a parochial place where it’s a lot of folks who are from there and a lot of big families, a lot of musical families, a lot of history, a lot of tradition, but I like to think of New Orleans as an idea.
And when you think about this project, why it works so well, and people say, well, Dee Dee Bridgewater now covering New Orleans, well, New Orleans is always inside of Dee Dee Bridgewater like New Orleans is inside of America and the world.
The record is amazing, but when you see the show live which you guys get to witness today, when you see Dee Dee Bridgewater, in my opinion, and the rest of the world’s opinion, Dee Dee Bridgewater is the best living jazz singer in the world today, and we’re honored to be able to call her back to home where jazz got started in New Orleans.
Tavis: Yeah, that’s why she’s always on this program as often as I can get her here because I think a lot of us concur with your assessment.
Mayfield: You got good taste.
Tavis: I wonder how important it is to celebrate this anniversary with all that still has yet to be done in your city of New Orleans. Because the approach I wanted to take tonight was a little bit different than all the other shows have taken over the weekend and will take this week. Let’s do something that was celebratory, so we sat in the room with our producer.
Like what are we gonna do on our show that’s a little different than what everybody else is doing? And when I saw Dee Dee’s project come across my desk, I was like, you know what? I think this is the answer, that we’re gonna do a show that focuses on celebrating what was and what will be again.
But talk to me from your perspective, Irvin, as a native, of what it means to celebrate this moment and not just to cry about what happened 10 years ago, although it brought a lot of tears legitimately.
Mayfield: Absolutely. Well, you know, my father was a victim of drowning in Katrina and he would want us to celebrate. The reason New Orleans is still around is because of the celebrations it has inspired since its inception as a city. I’m always excited about the possibility of what might happen. That’s what drives us and I think that’s the spirit of New Orleans and the spirit of jazz.
Tavis: Dee Dee, situate this project for me in the corpus of your work. How do you…
Bridgewater: In the corpus of my work?
Tavis: I mean, you’ve done so much. How does this fit into the…
Bridgewater: Well, you know, this came about kind of–I mean, it was not planned to be, so it just happened. When we recorded the project originally, it was going to be a product that we could sell at the New Orleans Jazz Market which opened in April. And when we listened to it, I called Irvin and I said, “Oh, this is really good. We need to see if we can get a deal on this.”
And then that was when we fine-tuned it and I said everybody’s that’s gonna be involved in the final product has to be from New Orleans because it is about New Orleans. And then Irvin and I happened because Irvin invited me to be part of a Christmas celebration in Minneapolis where he was artistic director of the Minnesota Philharmonic.
And that’s how we met and that was a little over six years ago and I fell in love with this young man and I fell in love with his trio. I stole his drummer [laugh] and then, you know, eventually I worked with the orchestra and then I really was hooked. I love this orchestra.
Tavis: I’m glad he forgave you for stealing his drummer.
Bridgewater: Yes, he did.
Tavis: And still agreed to work with you on this project [laugh]. It’s called “Dee Dee’s Feathers”. Dee Bridgewater, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. And by the way, if Dee Dee and Irvin can’t sell an album, that dog doesn’t hunt.
Bridgewater: That’s my dog!
Tavis: Yeah, the dog. Come on, Jonathan. Put that back up again.
Bridgewater: That’s my dog.
Tavis: The dog on the cover, man [laugh].
Bridgewater: That’s Ayo. Well, he jumped up on the sofa and Greg says, “Oh, let him stay, you know, like he’s guarding. Let him stay”, so there he is.
Tavis: It worked.
Bridgewater: He made his album debut.
Tavis: All right, I’m out of time. Coming up, Dee Dee, Irvin and the Ensemble will perform the songs, “One Fine Thing” and “New Orleans’ from the project, “Dee Dee’s Feathers”. That is our show for tonight. Thank you for watching. Honored to have both of you on this program.
Bridgewater: Thank you so much for having us.
Tavis: I’m getting out the way. Enjoy what’s coming up and, as always, keep the faith.
Bridgewater: Yeah! Just love that jazz, just love that jazz.
Announcer: For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at pbs.org.
[Walmart Sponsor Ad]
Announcer: And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.