The accordion solo heard in the opening bars of Dee Dee Bridgewater’s new CD J’ai Deux Amours will evoke in the listener’s mind scenes of Paris, a result especially appropriate for a recording of French love songs. These images will fade quickly, however, as the rhythm changes to a jazz styling and the remainder of the small combo joins in to accompany Ms. Bridgewater’s vocals.
The inspiration for this CD came during time Ms. Bridgewater spent living in Paris in the 1990s. All but one of the songs is of French origin; some were popularized by greats such as Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf.
Knowledge of French is not a requirement to appreciate these tracks. Many are instantly familiar since they have been pop standards for some time. “La Mer,” for example, will be recognized as “Beyond the Sea,” a song popularized by Bobby Darin. In addition, in a few cases, Ms. Bridgewater sings a portion of the lyrics in English.
A more sigificant contribution to universal enjoyment of these songs, however, is the manner in which Ms. Bridgewater uses phrasing and her dynamic range to convey the emotion of the lyrics. No translation is required to feel the anguish found in “Ne Me Quitte Pas.”
Even though this CD pays homage to French songs and singers, it is more than a tribute album. These are fresh arrangements that make effective use of a variety of rhythms to enhance the appreciation of the material. These arrangements are handled expertly by Ms. Bridgewater’s fellow musicians — Marc Berthoumieux (accordions), Ira Coleman (bass), Minino Garay (percussion), and Louis Winsberg (guitars). Their playing provides the perfect accompaniment to the vocals, which remain front and center on these 11 tracks.
Even for those unfamiliar with these French songs, Dee Dee Bridgewater’s jazz treatments assure that nothing is lost in translation.