‘Jazz Roots' Pairs Prodigy, Icon

Bridgewater, Alexander Team Up for ‘Jazz Roots'

Charlotte Libov

Photographer: Carol Friedman

At every Jazz Roots concert, a large group of student musicians attend both the sound check and the concert, exemplifying this series’ commitment to nurturing the next generation of young talent.

While their attendance is very much in the background, the role that mentorship plays in the field of jazz will be very front-and-center this Friday night when the series unites renowned jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater with pianist 14-year-old Joey Alexander, who is the youngest Grammy nominee in the award program’s history.

“Jazz is a generations art form, passed down in an apprenticeship manner that is all too rare in the world today. Every artist career is on the backs of mentors and role models,” says Shelly Berg, the music series’ advisor and dean of the Frost School of Music.

Bridgewater is standing in for Ramsey Lewis, who is recuperating from minor surgery, says Liz Wallace, vice president programming for the Arsht Center.

"We so appreciate that the sensational Ms. Bridgewater has been able to find time in her busy schedule to join us for this concert.  It is a gift,” Wallace said.

Bridgewater is a fan favorite, “having performed previously in two “Jazz Roots” programs, Jazz Meets Gershwin,” and the “Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard,” Wallace noted.

Photographer: Mark Higashino

“Dee Dee is one of a few in the ‘royalty’ of jazz singers, and we felt we needed that level of artist to replace Ramsey Lewis. She is also one of the most engaging performers in jazz, so our patrons will have a great experience,” Berg said.

Bridgewater, an icon in the jazz world, is a especially well known because of her 23-year stint as the host of NPR’s syndicated radio show, “Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater."

She has won three Grammys, as well as a Tony Award for her work as a stage actress in “The Wiz.” She is also a prolific recording artist, who is known for her activism as well. She is a UN Goodwill Ambassador and, most recently, a NEA Jazz Master honoree. Her latest album “Memphis…Yes, I’m Ready” an homage to her birth city,” was released in September 2017 to great critical praise.

Bridgewater, who makes no secret of her age, half-rapped at a recent appearance at the New York’s Blue Note, “ I’m 67 years old, I’m happy to be and I have decided to do a record that is for me,” she was quoted as saying, in a New York Times rave review of the show.

As for the younger side of “Generations,” Berg is enthusiastic about young Alexander. “Joey possesses the maturity and inventiveness of a great artists several times his age. We don’t know how this is possible or where it comes from, but it is amazing to experience,” said Berg.

Alexander learned about jazz from his musician father and began teaching himself piano on a mini-keyboard at the age of six. By the age of eight, he had been invited by UNESCO to perform for Herbie Hancock.

He garnered two Grammy Award nominations for his debut album, “My Favorite Things,” plus unprecedented media coverage, which include segments on the “Today Show,” “60 Minutes” and the award show’s telecast. His latest album, ‘Joey, Monk, Live!’ is a tribute to his mentor Thelonious Monk in celebration of the famous musician’s centennial.

Photographer: Carol Friedman

Says Wallace: “The brilliance of a child prodigy on the same stage as a music icon promises to be a not to be missed concert this season and is the perfect opportunity to introduce the next generation of jazz!”

“Generations: Dee Dee Bridgewater and Joey Alexander,” will be performed Friday, Jan. 12 at the Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Fla., 33132. Tickets $45-$125. Call 305-949-6722.

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