Last time Dee Dee Bridgewater was in Melbourne, she had everybody in the audience forming what is now remembered as the most legendary conga line in the history of jazz. OK, that might be an exaggeration, but the truth is that she set the bar pretty high up and her return is having everyone excited, not least of all because she is coming with Irving Mayfield Jr. and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, with whom she recorded yet another unresistable album, “Dee Dee’s Feathers“. A vigorous trumpet player and a brilliant band leader, Mayfield is one of the flame-keepers of the New Orleans tradition. A few days before hitting the Hamer Hall, ending the Melbourne Jazz Festival with the appropriate bang, he found time for a chat, one that started with a statement with which we couldn’t agree more.
AustralianJazz.Net: Why did you work with Dee Dee Bridgewater?
Irvin Mayfield: Because she is the best jazz singer alive. It was an once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to work with her. She is absolutely amazing. Her energy and her soul while working with the NOJO gave us the opportunity to explore the New Orleans songs in a fresh way. And it was also an opportunity for her to return to her own roots, as an orchestra singer, as she got her start with the Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis orchestra.
AJN: What does being a Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana mean to you?
IM: All artists are ambassadors of their respective communities. Even if you think about Picasso, when he created the “Guernica”, he was representing the spanish culture of his time. I am trying to embrace the fact that New Orleans is more of an idea than it is a place. It is the idea of a place where people are free to be themselves and feel good about it. Jazz was born out of that idea.
AJN: How do you feel about the division between traditional and ‘modern’ jazz?
IM: All jazz is modern. From Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet to Joshua Redman, if it is good, honest and true, it is modern.
AJN: What should we expect from your performance with Dee Dee at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival?
IM: Imagine the best party you’ve ever been to. The food is great, your friends are there, there is a love interest in sight, music, dancing. Imagine that, times ten.