On “Dee Dee’s Feathers”, her latest record on Okeh, singer Dee Dee Bridgewater is backed by producer and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield (who is one of the founding members of Los Hombres Calientes) and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra which consists of 18 members.
It’s a party record opening with a song written by New Orleans native Harry Connick, Jr., “One Fine Thing”, in typical New Orleans fashion and slowing down for the second piece, a 7-minute plus version of “What A Wonderful World” where Irvin plays a sensual and gimmick-less trumpet solo.
Dr. John guests on his classic “Big Chief” and Dee Dee goes down with the Blues on the standard “St. James Infirmary”. Percussionist Bill Summers, a former member of The Headhunters and also part of Los Hombres Calientes, is the main force behind the title track, a grooving shuffle ditty which is way too short. And he’s also very present on “Congo Square”, also written by Dee Dee, Bill, and Irvin. It’s a pretty funky and soulful affair which heavily relies on a percussive backbeat and somehow stays floating in the air.
Hoagy Carmichael‘s “New Orleans” is a cool showcase for the orchestra and Dee Dee comes along as the perfect ambassador for the Crescent City here. It’s Second Line time on “Treme Song/Do Whatcha Wanna” which is like the centerpiece of the album celebrating everything that New Orleans is known and loved for – the parades, the dancing, the joie de vivre. Duke Ellington‘s “Come Sunday” has a brilliantly suave arrangement and is one of the most persuasive versions of this classic I’ve heard in a long while – it mixes the church with the street, the altar with the club.
There is one more original Irvin Mayfield composition, a love song with a very thick cinemascopic arrangement which at times becomes too layered (“C’est Ici Que Je T’Aime”). It’s back to comfortable Bridgewater style on another classic written in honor of the city, “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans”, arranged here by pianist Victor Atkins in a very laid-back and elaborate version with Dee Dee showing her best side. The final “Whoopin’ Blues” is not for me – too much scatting which I never felt at ease with.
Dee Dee, who will celebrate her 65th birthday at the end of this month, is touring Europe for the Festival season with Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra playing in Vienne (June 27th), Ascona (June 29th), Rotterdam (July 11th), Veszprem (July 17th), Pori (July 18th), and Narbonne (July 30th).