Cecil with young students in Champaign, Illinois
Reviews of Cecil Bridgewater and his music:
1. Five-man band lets music do the talking
The Flintstones Theme" has probably never before been played at the University YMCA's Know Your Universities series, whose topics rarely lend themselves to cartoons.
New York jazzman Cecil Bridgewater changed all that Tuesday with a beboppy rendition of the animation theme, as well as "Take the A Train," in which his five-man band rivaled Duke Ellington's.
There was more music than talk by the Champaign native, who traded solos with his brother Ron on saxophone and other musicians.
When he did talk, he talked about how the high jump had led him to the trumpet.
The Bridgewater clan was long interested in music' his grandfather played in a Ringling Brothers Circus band in the early 1900s, and his father was in the U.S. Navy Band in World War ll. His uncle Pete had a big band, his brother Ron is a University of Illinois music professor, and his ex-wife Dee Dee recently won a Grammy for her scat-singing.
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2. C-U soaks up the Bridgewater's' talent
Signs welcoming drivers into Champaign and Urbana proclaim our cities "Home of Miss America 2003." I respectfully submit we add signs that say "Home of the Bridgewater's."
Even though Cecil and his former wife, Dee Dee, now live elsewhere, their musical hearts and souls remain here as evidenced in an unusual performance Saturday evening in the Tryon Festival Theatre of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Local resident Ron Bridgewater joined his brother for several selections, and the Bridgewater extended family was in the audience.
The University of Illinois Concert Jazz Band led by Chip McNeill -- augmented by an orchestra with Dorothy Martirano as concertmaster-- accompanied the Bridgewater's.
Considering the Bridgewater's rehearsed with the band only twice and the orchestra once, the overall sound was amazingly cohesive. Allowing for the various missteps by Cecil and Dee Dee and that Cecil conducted while playing the trumpet, the band gave a better than great presentation.
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3. Jazz singer returns to C-U
Since leaving Champaign-Urbana in 1970, jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater has enjoyed an amazing career.
She's won critical acclaim for her albums. She's won two Grammy awards and a Tony for best featured actress in a musical -- in 1975, in "The Wiz," the first musical in which she ever appeared.
She's racked up a number of other awards and nominations, among them a Laurence Olivier Award nomination in 1987 for hest actress in a musical, for essentially channeling the late great Billie Holiday in a London production of "Lady Day."...
Now Bridgewater is back in town, ready to appear onstage Saturday night at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts with her first husband, the jazz trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, in a concert that is part of the center's Jazz Threads initiative.
It's going to be really exciting, " Dee Dee Bridgewater said after arriving in Champaign on Thursday. I just told Cecil, 'Do what you want. Just make sure I know the song and I'll sing it.' He's taken songs from my latest CD ('This is New') and turned them into orchestral and big-band arrangements.
"It'll be nice for us to be on the stage again because , really, I kind of started out here. This is where my career started."
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4. Jazz Comes Home
Urbana -- Once, during his program "Jazz from the Kennedy Center," the jazz pianist, historian and educator Billy Taylor asked trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater about his career. Bridgewater replied that he had accomplished more than he ever thought he would.
I got a chance to meet a lot of people and to perform with them," he told Taylor. "I've really been blessed from the at standpoint. People who I thought would never know my name -- I got a chance to meet and perform with them.
"That's been a thrill."
Those players include jazz greats Horace Silver, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Jimmy Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Art Blakey. Now Bridgewater, who developed his chops in Champaign-Urbana, returns to his hometown for a weeklong residency at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the first of three for him over the academic year.
As part of the Jazz Threads initiative, Bridgewater will engage in a variety of master classes and other events over three weeks. He will be here next week and again in December and March. His first week will culminate with a concert at 7:30p.m. Sept. 27 at the Krannert Center.
There, Bridgewater will perform with a band that he put together for the show: Mulgrew Miller on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, Carl Allen on drums, and his younger brother, Ron Bridgewater, on saxophone. The first three are jazz musicians based in New York. Ron Bridgewater is a UI professor of saxophone who once played with his older brother in the Thad Jones, Mel Lewis Orchestra. A "Talk back" with the artists will follow the concert.
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5. Cool sounds for a cold night
February 24, 2000
LaGuardia Community College's Little theatre, during this past Friday's stormy, icy and brutally cold evening, became one of the very coziest and intimately comfortable jazz performance venues in Queens. In the hippest of circles, it's been said "that the cats will always hang when it's time to hang," and this first gathering of a promising schedule of future performances to follow, as part of "The Second Annual Jazz Jam Series," certainly proved the axiom to be the truest of truisms.
...Internationally renowned jazz flugelhorn-trumpet player, educator, producer, compose and arranger Cecil Bridgewater was introduced as the featured artist by Eric Lemon, an acoustic double bass player from Jamaica(Queens) and the musical director of the series.
Bridgewater's mastery of the trumpet, with his clean, cool and soulful homage to these deceased trumpet icons (Clifford Brown), was beautifully accented and augmented by Justin Robinson's alto sax reminiscences of Parker and Brownie, as they traded rhythmic sequences and riffs with the rest of the ensemble.
The Ellington/Strayhorn classic "Take The A Train" followed a short reminiscence by Bridgewater as he casually engaged his entranced audience with personal recollections of his formative years.
In particular, he spoke proudly of a childhood trip with his father to see Louis Armstrong for the first time "that convinced him that he wanted to become a trumpeter just like him."
by Norm Harris
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6. Recent Takes: Vibist Jay Hoggard
Offers Spirited Duke Ellington Salute for Hartford Jazz Society
The Greenmountain Jazz Messenger
- July/August 1999
...Hoggards Duke Ellington salute ended with an unexpected bonus. Trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater joined the ensemble onstage for a supercharged rendition of "Cottontail," and more surprising, Cecil didn't have his horn with him; instead, he dazzled the audience with an exuberant (if somewhat unpolished) display of scatting. He dedicated his performance to vocal improvising pioneer Leon Thomas, who had died several weeks earlier. by Chuck Obuchowski
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- December 1998
Cecil Bridgewater: Mean What You Say
Titled after a Thad Jones tune heard on the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra's debut album more than 30 years ago, this album is a reminder of Bridgewater's twisting, melodic, hard bop trumpet work. He and tenor saxophonist Ron Bridgewater, his brother, are joined by a beautiful rhythm section: pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Billy Hart. Vocalist Vanessa Rubin appears on two tracks.
The album recalls the '50s and early '60s in its melodic warmth, the groove of the rhythm section, and the phrasing of the hornmen. The opener, Ron's "In the Open," is a complex blues line that the composer solos on with smoothly, lithe phrasing. "Cannon's Samba," by Cecil, follows, with the trumpeter fanning the flames during his solo. On the title cut the hornmen improvise several airy choruses together before the theme appears.
Cecil, most noted for his long tenure with Max Roach's quartet, has also played in the Jones-Lewis Orchestra and with Horace Silver, among many others. This album is long overdue.
by Owen Cordie
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8. VICTORY MUSIC REVIEW - August 1998
CECIL BRIDGEWATER: MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
Cecil Bridgewater is such an old pro, it's a pleasure to hear him play anything that captures his fancy. Bridgewater's long list of credits includes playing, composing and recording with Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Horace Silver, Dizzy, and Art Blakey. Here, Bridgewater stretches out on the "bring-a-tear-to-your-eye-beautiful" "If My Heart Could Speak," the up-tempo blues "In the Open," written and performed with his brother Ron, and a handful of originals, including the engaging and clever "Louisiana Strut," played as a duet with brother Ron on sax. A future hall-of-famer at the top of his game. (Todd De Groff)
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9. Schools of Cool - January 22, 1998
Black Issues In Higher Education
Cecil Bridgewater, a veteran jazz trumpeter and faculty member at the New School for Social Research, says that colleges and universities have been eager to recruit experienced musicians who may not have graduate degrees into jazz faculty positions. Jazz program administrators appreciate that many veteran musicians were active in or close to the creation of jazz styles such as bebop in the 1940's, according to Bridgewater.
Bridgewater says the goal of the program is to prepare students "to function in the jazz community." He stresses that a good jazz program needs to have experienced and working musicians involved with students as teachers. He contends that weaker programs tend to rely upon faculty whose members may have solid academic credentials, but lack professional working experience as musicians.
"You can teach skills such as improvisation in an academic setting," says Bridgewater. "It can be done as long as students are getting the right information. It doesn't matter where they get it; it matters whether they're getting the right information."
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10. Jazz Connections: West Coast Concepts In Jazz - May/June
Cecil Bridgewater: I Love Your Smile
Trumpeter, Cecil Bridgewater a former member of Horace Silver's Quartet and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra goes solo on this mainstream/traditional jazz album. Bridgewater's compositions are bright and innovative. An accomplished artist, Bridgewater reminds us what jazz is all about, "improvisation." This eight cut album of excellent trumpet work showcases Bridgewater's special talent for phrasing and his sensitivity for listening to the melody ("Sophisticated Lady"). I Love Your Smile features among others, Max Roach (drums), Antonio Hart (alto sax), Steve Turre (trombone) and Roland Hanna (piano). The album opens with a tribute to Magic Johnson, appropriately called, "Magic."
by Irene Wadkins
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11. Jazz/A.A. - The Gavin Report/April 16, 1993
I Love Your Smile - Cecil Bridgewater
Some uncompromising, scathing Bebop from Max Roach Productions in the form of some speedy, slippery trumpet pyrotechnics from Cecil Bridgewater. Pianist Roland Hanna, drummers Roach and Michael Carvin, saxist Antonio Hart and others let their fingers fly, but keep their eyes steady on the charts - that is, the ones with notes on them. Bridgewater exhibits a dryer, flatter tone than most trumpet players. The notes don't have much of a tail behind them either. "Magic" is as feverish as a fifty yard dash. Hanna and Bridgewater complement each other's blazing sense of timing. Even a melodious, good time, mid-temp piece like the title cut eventually transforms into a note-filled juggernaut. On "Samba, Para Ustedes Dos" the four horn soloists manage some incredibly acrobatic eighteen-bar melody heads before plunging into some dizzying Samba jams. Steve Turre glides through his difficult solos with barely a scratch. by Keith Zimmerman
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12. BRE - Jazz Notes
Cecil Bridgewater - I Love Your Smile
Composer/trumpeter/arranger Cecil Bridgewater presents a collection that is a true ensemble recording. Pianist Roland Hanna; bassist Tyrone Brown; Michael Carvin, drums; Antonio Hart, alto sax; Steve Turre, trombone; Earl McIntyre, bass trombone; and Mark Taylor on French horn, play tunes as a cascading collective. Vocalist Vanessa Rubin lends her controlled stylings to "Never Too Young To Dream," a ballad steeped with warmth. Hart's sax solo complements Cecil's trumpet on this tune. Good chops are displayed on "Samba, Para Ustedes Dos." "Waltz for Duke Pearson" and "As I Live And Breathe" enable a brassy rhubarb amongst the players. "Magic" is a fast-paced tribute to the NBA legend while "I Love Your Smile" goes out to Cecil's late grandmother, and is more sedate. by Peter Miro
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13. Wisconsin State Journal - Saturday, October 29, 1994
Richard Davis, Friends multiply music sounds
Trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater...tends to play thoughtfully, almost coolly, using silence and simple phrasing, editing himself as he goes along.
by Paul Baker
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14. Saint Paul Pioneer Press - May 7, 1991
Max Roach Quartet is exciting, entertaining
Trumpeter Bridgewater -- who stood erectly and nearly motionless -- played thoughtful, low-key, beautifully constructed and subtly expressive solos in his previously mentioned warm and quite pure tone. His phrasing seemed quite original.
by Bob Protzman
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15. Remembering Master Drummer as Bandleader
By Nate Chinen
When Max Roach died last August at 83, he was remembered for a number of things: his stature as a patriarch of bebop; his role in quickening the pulse of jazz drumming; his intelligent ambitions as a conceptualist and composer; his commitment to social justice and equality. What was sometimes buried in the mix was Mr. Roach's track record as a bandleader, which began in earnest in the 1950s.
But this weekend at Iridium, a handful of Mr. Roach's former sidemen are celebrating precisely that aspect of his legacy. Chief among them is the tenor saxophonist Odean Pope, who worked alongside the trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater in a longstanding edition of the Roach quartet.
On Thursday night Mr. Pope and Mr. Bridgewater occupied a front line that also included the tenor saxophonists Billy Harper and James Carter. What they played was power music, some of it only tangentially related to Mr. Roach but all of it connected to the fast-flowing currents of bebop and its stylistic successors.
Early in the first set Mr. Harper and Mr. Bridgewater teamed up to play "Effi," a hard-bop waltz by the pianist Stanley Cowell. They took divergent paths in their solos: Mr. Bridgewater developed a concise motif, while Mr. Harper unleashed an outpouring. In both cases there was calm and competent support from a rhythm section composed of George Burton, the bassist Lee Smith and the drummer Jeff (Tain) Watts.
Mr. Pope has organized the tribute to feature a slightly different cast of characters each night, with a natural emphasis on the drum chair. In Mr. Watts he had an assertive dynamo, the sort of player who drives the music onward with complex polyrhythm. The inevitable drum solo came at the set's close, on a song of Mr. Pope's called "To the Roach." Fittingly, it was both technically agile and thematically sound.
The set included a few other ecstatic contributions, among them a version of the Mal Waldron ballad "Soul Eyes" performed by Mr. Carter on soprano saxophone. (He was never a member of a Max Roach band, but that's no hindrance to his enthusiasm.) On "Prince Lawsha," a modal fanfare by Mr. Pope, there were gripping, blustery solos by each of the saxophonists. Mr. Harper's elaboration somehow ended up as a waggish reggae vamp, which made the return to form feel a bit jarring.
Cohesiveness can be a hurdle for any all-star team, and this one generally had more firepower than focus. So it was a small relief when Mr. Pope played one ballad unaccompanied, with a balance of adroitness and restraint. It was also appropriate: the ballad was "I Remember Clifford," a lament for the trumpeter Clifford Brown, who jointly led Mr. Roach's first significant band, and who died in 1956. Here the song paid homage to both musicians, and its elegiac tone was coupled with a spirit of celebration.