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Dee Dee Bridgewater combines blues and jazz on 'Memphis ... Yes I'm Ready'

| Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Dee Dee Bridgewater is using her new album and current concerts to show a blend in her personal history.

The singer's “Memphis ... Yes I'm Ready” is a combination of soul hits she heard growing up in Flint, Mich., but done in a bluesy style that is part of her birthplace of Memphis.

“When people heard me singing this material the first time, they said, 'Ohhhhhhh, you are more than just a jazz singer,'” she says.

Bridgewater will be showing off this blend of material at two shows Oct. 6 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on Pittsburgh's North Side.

She says she was considering doing an album that traced the history of the blues from the Delta to Memphis and northward. But then she decided to focus on some the soul hits from Memphis, but with a different sound.

Included are songs such as B.B. King's “The Thrill is Gone,” Otis Redding's “Try a Little Tenderness” and Al Green's “Can't Get Next to You.”

At first, she says, some listeners at concerts reacted with “shock and disapproval,” because they were not hearing the jazz they had come to expect. After all, this is the Bridgewater who did a Grammy Award-winning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and a stage show on Billie Holiday.

“But now word of mouth is spreading on what I'm doing and I am going to the proper venues,” she says. “The tough part can be finding the right venues.”

Bridgewater is used to working in a range of places, from days in “The Wiz” on Broadway, to jazz settings, to radio studios. She was the host of NPR's “JazzSet” for 23 years, signing off in 2014.

She obviously can handle a variety of tasks.

“I've been having a good time,” she says of the current one.

Bridgewater will perform at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 6. Admission is $49.50. Details: 412-322-0800 or mcgjazz.org.

A Stern challenge

Mike Stern, a guitarist who has been a frequent visitor to this area, has released an album that shows an indefatigable sense of humor.

When he fell over construction debris on July 3, 2016, he broke both femurs and caused some nerve damage. To get back to playing, he started using a Velcro glove-and-pick assembly and then went to a pick glued to his right hand.

His new album, released by Heads Up in September, is called, appropriately enough, “Trip” and includes songs called “Screws” for the 11 of them that were in his arms, and “Scotch Tape and Glue.” The latter is his current pick method.

But the most important fact is that he is back. Stern played with Miles Davis at what was the Stanley in Pittsburgh, and has been a visitor to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on Pittsburgh's North Side and at the Cabaret Theater in Pittsburgh.

It's good to see him filling out a full touring schedule through the fall and winter.

Bob Karlovits is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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