Dee is among the premier vocalists and songwriters in American music today, and one of Chicago’s most gifted and respected artists. Her performances span virtually every music genre related to the African diaspora: gospel, blues, neo-soul, rhythm-and-blues, and world music. But her true heart belongs to jazz, the one idiom that can encompass all her influences. She gravitated toward jazz at an early age and names Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald among her major influences, as well as Chicago saxophonist Henry Huff, who encouraged her to take risks and cross boundaries, setting her on the path to becoming one of the most accomplished voice improvisers in the world today. Her 2007 “Sirens of Song” tribute to Nina Simone and Dinah Washington (commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago), at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion, introduced her to a larger audience and helped her garner world recognition as well, resulting in frequent tours of France, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Poland. Dee boasts long and fruitful associations with Chicago’s jazz elite (including Ramsey Lewis, Orbert Davis, and Nicole Mitchell), and leads two of her own bands: the Dee Alexander Quartet and the Evolution Ensemble, which emphasizes her original compositions. Her accolades include “Chicagoan of the Year” (Chicago Tribune, 2008) and “Jazz Entertainer of the Year” (Chicago Music Awards), and her 2009 album Wild Is The Wind received five stars (highest honor) from Downbeat Magazine, which named it among the Top Ten recordings of the new millennium. She is also a member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Chicago’s internationally known musicians’ collective, and has performed frequently in major AACM productions, as well as in other large-scale works on Chicago stages and television; recent projects re-interpreting the music of rock and soul legends James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.
Do you remember your mother singing to you when you were young? Some of my fondest memories were of being awakened many early mornings to the voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and my own mother ...