Bridgewater's heartfelt tribute to Ella Fitzgerald is a resounding testament not only to the legendary jazz vocal icon, but also to Bridgewater's own faithful singing style, rich in Ella's tonal quality particularly on the high end. Her inflections are also quite natural, rather than self-effacing or forced. Some of the tracks vary in group size, as duo (with Kenny Burrell), trio (with Lou Levy leading on piano), or combo (with Milt Jackson, Antonio Hart, Grady Tate, Slide Hampton, and brother Cecil Bridgewater). Nine of the total 13 cuts have big-band backing, or orchestral settings arranged and conducted by John Clayton. "Midnight Sun" is perhaps the best of all ballads, and here Dee Dee sings with ravishingly lush, near-frightening efficiency. She cops Ella best on "Stairway to the Stars," with the piano trio leading and strings following along. She picks up on Ella's cutesiness for "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," while starting balladic, then swinging well during "Mr Paganini." Brother/trumpeter/arranger Cecil writes a neat call-and-response with horns and the singer on "Undecided," and they wail together in convincing, authentic fashion on "Lady Be Good." Andre Cecceralli, with the trio on "Mack the Knife," adds a dash of contemporary flavor. Bridgewater's finale "Dear Ella" is the end-all tribute with guitarist Burrell only as accompanist and author. They thank the legend for her enormous contributions which need no additional comment. This is certainly Dee Dee Bridgewater's most ambitious, and finest recorded production. You have to appreciate the reality of Fitzgerald's influence on thousands of musicians, but on this CD, it all comes home to roost. Highly recommended, for the singer's attitude and the brilliant backup musicians who nod in total agreement.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos