Singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater named Detroit Jazz Festival's 2020 Artist-in-Residence

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Iconic jazz artist and Flint-bred singer Dee Dee Bridgewater has been named the 2020 Artist-in-Residence for this summer's Detroit Jazz Festival. 

She will not only headline the free, outdoor event Sept. 4-7, but will also perform with different combos throughout the weekend. 

Bridgewater calls the news "pretty momentous." 

Dee Dee Bridgewater performs at the Carhartt Amphitheater stage in Hart Plaza.

"I"m just excited to be the Artist-in-Residence," said the singer, songwriter and actress, adding that few women have had this opportunity in recent years. "I'm quite excited just at that. I love the Detroit Jazz Festival and I've been there on several occasions."

The Grammy and Tony Award-winning performer said she has a few different projects planned as part of her Jazz Fest role this year. 

"I've just started a new project with pianist Bill Charlap just in duo, so I want to present that, that's a work in progress," she said. "Then I am going to present a mentoring program that I'm doing with young women in jazz, it's called the Woodshed Network." 

That ensemble will feature a variety of women jazz musicians and vocalists in their 20s and 30s from all over the country that Bridgewater has been mentoring not only in terms of music, but in the industry, finance and business. It's a program she's worked on with her daughter and manager, Tulani Bridgewater. 

She said for this year's Jazz Fest she also plans to showcase an all-woman big band set to finish the festival. 

Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater

"It's a pretty lofty project," she said.

Bridgewater, who resides in New Orleans, is scheduled to perform at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe the evening of March 23 after the festival's full line-up is announced earlier that day. A preview luncheon scheduled for that day has been canceled, so the announcement will be made virtually. 

A Memphis native, Bridgewater was raised in Flint and attended Michigan State University. She's not only a veteran performer of the Detroit Jazz Festival, but she's also performed at other large-scale events including the San Francisco and Monterey Jazz Festivals. 

"Dee Dee is the rare artist whose music eloquently combines both her head and her heart," said Jazz Fest president and artistic director Chris Collins in an email to The Detroit News. 

"Her music is built on a deep foundation of jazz language and legacy, always with a singular sense of creativity and ear to the future," he said. "That, combined with the joy, beauty and  giving nature she embodies as a human being, makes her a very special artist."

Bridgewater — who has a few Grammys and won the 1975 Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in "The Wiz" — says a few major things set Detroit's festival apart from the others. 

"It's free. It's free. It's free," she said. "It is probably one of our last jazz festivals that has stayed jazz, where jazz is not the operative word it's really a true festival that elevates jazz music, jazz musicians." 

"I love that this festival is done right in downtown Detroit," she added. "So it brings people together from all over to experience the city and get to see how the city has come back and celebrate not only the music but the city." 

She adds that the Detroit Jazz Festival is a place where artists are appreciated and respected by the festival organizers and the audience alike. 

"There is such a genuine appreciation of the performances by the audiences, it's an amazing interaction between artist and the audience," she said. "It's wonderful to just walk the street and run into people that are there for the festival and talk with them and take pictures with them and laugh with them. It's just fabulous."

"For me it is one of the best festivals in the world, and it is the best free jazz festival."

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Photos:40th Detroit Jazz Festival

More:Influential bass player Stanley Clarke named Detroit Jazz Fest's 2019 Artist-in-Residence

More:Chick Corea named Jazz Fest’s 2018 Artist-in-Residence