TALLINN - In French, a special word is preserved for performers of such grace and style for whom the word "singer" is inadequate. They are called "chansonniers," a term for which there is no adequate English translation. It means one who sings in French, but carries much deeper significance and respect than that.
Dee Dee Bridgewater is one singer who has earned the title of a chansonnier. After a successful career as a jazz and musical singer in America, she moved to Paris in the late 1980s and reinvented herself as a member of that special class of performers.
Some critics believe Bridgewater is one of the most tragically overlooked and under-appreciated figures of jazz, soul and song. Despite her skill, style and reputation, she has never achieved the same level of fame or fortune as some of her contemporaries.
Next weekend, Bridgewater will perform in Tallinn to launch a special series of jazz and world music concerts spanning the Christmas period.
The prolific Estonian world music promotion company Jazzkaar said they invited Bridgewater to take part in the Christmas Jazz series, which is now entering its 11th year, because of her status, style and underrated quality.
The idea of Christmas Jazz, says Jazzkaar organizer Anne Erm, is to emphasize intimacy and warmth in a period of darkness and cold. The artists were specifically chosen to fit into the cozy atmosphere of Christmastime and church settings.
Christmas Jazz began on Nov. 29 and runs through Dec. 16, and will also feature electronic underground beats, rock and progressive jazz. The line-up includes Polish jazz singer Anna Maria Jopek, UK club music collective The Bays, the celebrated bassist Andres Jormin from Sweden, as well as the famous Estonian singers Heli-Mari Arder, Hedvig Hanson and Rebecca Kontus.
The series uses venues across Estonia, including concert halls and churches. It will take place in Tallinn, Tartu, Parnu, Rakvere and Johvi.
Bridgewater, 56, will perform at the Estonia Concert Hall in the Estonia Opera House on Dec. 2, accompanied by her band. Louis Winsberg will take guitar and Minino Garay will take trumpet and percussion. Marc Berthoumieux will be on accordion and Ira Coleman on bass.
Although she made her name singing soul and jazz numbers and performing in musicals such as the soul update of "The Wizard of Oz," "The Wiz," and the Billie Holiday bio-musical "Lady Day," Bridgewater now chooses to focus on her French chansons. On this tour, she will introduce her new Grammy-nominated album "J'ai Deux Amours," a collection of French love songs, which she began working on almost 10 years ago while living in Paris.
"'J'ai Deux Amours' is my way of thanking France, a country that opened its arms to me," Bridgewater says on her Web site.
Finnish band RinneRadio will be another highlight of the concert series. The group tends to function at the edge of jazz, and has described its output as "a mix of meditative jazz motifs, fragile ambient soundscapes and hard-driving techno, hip hop, trip hop and drum and bass." Contrary to RinneRadio's ordinary practice to play in clubs, in Tallinn the group will perform at Kaarli Church on Dec. 13 and launch its special interpretation of well-known Christmas songs. Anne Erm says that RinneRadio will return to its genuine style during the concerts outside Tallinn, yet the band's main performance at Kaarli Church will remain decorous.
Various venues across Estonia
Nov. 29 to Dec. 16
Tickets and info: www.jazzkaar.ee