Giovanni Russonello for THE NEW YORK TIMES – Dee Dee Bridgewater began her first set at the Blue Note on Tuesday with a short, half-rapped opening statement, settling in beneath the lights as her band played a Booker T. and the MG’s groove.
“I’m 67 years old, I’m happy to be, and I have decided to do a record that is for me,” she said. “I hope that you will enjoy yourself. Welcome to my party.”
Ms. Bridgewater was referring to the recently released album “Memphis … Yes I’m Ready,” a tribute to the rich soul tradition of the city where she was born. In fact, the entire year ought to have been Ms. Bridgewater’s party. In April she received a Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and next month she will cap it off with another prize: the ASCAP Foundation Champion Award, recognizing her decades of work on behalf of those in need.
But it wasn’t that simple. She spent the first seven months of 2017 in a wheelchair, hobbled by ruptures to her Achilles’ tendon sustained during two separate falls. One was a harrowing backstage plunge in Jakarta, where an errant cue sent her down a flight of stairs.
“I’m known for moving and I’m known for wearing high, high heels,” Ms. Bridgewater said in the green room on Tuesday, moments before taking the Blue Note stage. “That may never happen again. I hope it does.”