Listen Up: Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Dee Dee Bridgewater

Red Earth: A Malian Journey
(Emarcy)

By Tom Geddie

Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Red Earth: A Malian Journey is a masterful mix of American jazz, traditional African songs and sounds, and improvisation that documents her journey “home.” The album gets toes tapping while simultaneously celebrating a nation and calling attention to social injustices on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Grammy-winning Bridgewater was drawn to Mali when she toured many African countries as one of the United Nations’ first ambassadors to the Food and Agriculture Organization. She said she felt at home with the traditions and people in the Western African nation, one of the most stable countries on that continent, and, because much of the country is covered by the Sahara desert, one of the poorest.
Co-produced with her husband, Jean-Marie Durand, Red Earth was recorded in Mali’s capital, Bamako, and in Paris, with piano, guitars, bass, drums, and a range of traditional rhythm instruments including the djembe and cajon. The singing, in both English and Malian, is often done by multiple vocalists. Bridgewater, who has two Grammies and a Tony, is a fine, confident singer and co-producer here.
Without ever straying far from her jazz background, the songs typically begin with snippets that sound Spanish, Asian, Middle Eastern, Andean, American Indian, American blues, and, in one instance, even New Age. They always come back — quickly — to the jazz/Malian mix. If Africa really is the cradle of civilization, that’s where all of these sounds originated, anyway.
In addition to her interpretations of traditionals, Bridgewater shares versions of American numbers, including Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” Wayne Shorter’s “Long Time Ago,” her own “Meanwhile,” and the angry, often-recorded 1960s’ anthem “Compared to What?,” written by Eugene McDaniels. With its stories of family, young lovers, and bad spirits, history and hunger, freedom and the future, Red Earth: A Malian Journey is a meaningful “homecoming” for all of us.


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