Concord Jazz recording and performing vocalist with two recordings that hit the top twenty in USA jazz charts.
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Recordings and performances
Her debut album, Let There Be Love, with Stan Getz on saxophone and
Eddie Duran (a Benny Goodman Band graduate) on guitar, was
released on the Concord Jazz label (CJ-206) as an LP for Valentine's
Day 1983. The record also featured prominent Bay Area musicians Al
Plank, Vince Lateano, and Dean Reilly. This album was posted in the top
ten in Radio and Records jazz airplay charts in the spring of 1983. Her
follow-up recording in 1985 of One by One (CJ-271), also on the
Concord Jazz label, reached number 13 on the Radio and Records jazz
airplay charts in early summer 1985. This album featured trumpeter
Tom Harrell along with Duran and Plank, and other Bay Area jazz
musicians. Let There Be Love was chosen as a BillBoard Magazine
Recommended LP Jazz Pick in their March 26, 1983 issue. Bell was
also nominated by Down beat magazine in their Jazz Critic's Poll of 1984
and 1985 as Talent Deserving Wider Recognition. BAM Magazine
nominated Let There Be Love as the Best Debut Album in their 1983
Bell has performed around the US and internationally, appearing at the
Golden Globe Awards, the Russian River Jazz Festival, the Jazz in the
City Festival, the first and only Mill Valley Jazz Festival, the Napa Valley
Mustard Festival and the Cotati Jazz Festival, as well as television and
Leonard Feather of the Los Angeles Times wrote in a 1985 article that
Bell has a haunting, jazz-infected sound, her diction and phrasing
flawless. Jay Roebuck at the Orange County Register chose One by
One as the third best album of 1985, stating that Dee Bell sings with a
beautiful, clear voice that brings to mind Jackie Cain with just a touch of
Chris Connor here and there. It's a pleasant combination, and she
definitely has style of her own. In the British Jazz Journal, Derrick-
Stewart Baxter also wrote in 1985 that Dee Bell is more than just a good
professional. She knows just how to bring the best out in a song. She
does her own thing, lazy, hazy smoky singing.
Music Review: Dee Bell and Marcos Silva – ‘Silva – Bell – Elation’
By Jack Goodstein | Friday, January 24, 2014 -
Although jazz singer Dee Bell made her first critically applauded albums back in the ’80s with the likes of Stan Getz and Eddie Duran, her name is unlikely to be familiar to many jazz fans. As James Gavin’s liner notes to her new album with pianist Marcos Silva, Silva – Bell – Elation, tells it, the Indiana-born Bell came to Northern California to pursue a singing career in 1978. She was working as a waitress in a Sausalito music club when she got up to sing “Happy Birthday” to a friend. Guitarist Eddie Duran caught her song and soon she was sitting in with his trio. Stan Getz heard her sing and was willing to listen to a demo tape. He liked what he heard, and she got a gig with Concord Jazz resulting in two albums.
While her recordings got a lot of attention and she continued to work around the San Francisco area, she was not exactly making a fortune. She had to take a full time job. In 1990, she self-produced a third album,Sagacious Grace, but the master was defective as the result of a poorly placed mike and the album couldn’t be released. Disappointed by the expensive failure, she devoted herself to marriage, family and a job as a music teacher. Twenty odd years later, with a bit of digital know-how, the technical problems were corrected. In 2011, the album was released.
Now she has teamed up with Brazilian-born Marcos Silva for an album that she calls, at least in part, “a laid back white jazz singer floating over his Brazilian rhythms.” And it works, she handles Brazilian songs like Toninho Horta’s “Beijo Partido/Broken Kiss,” Marcos Valle’s “The Face I Love,” and especially Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Dreamer” with the finesse of a native. They’ve even arranged the Gershwins’ “S’Wonderful” as a samba.
The set opens with a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” featuring 17-year-old Chris Sullivan playing four different sax parts. There is also a little Lennon/McCartney with a sweet version of “I Will” and Joni Mitchell’s “Night in the City.” They infuse “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Nature Boy” with the flavor of the Caribbean, aided by steel drummer Andy Narell. Her version of Abbey Lincoln’s “The World is Falling Down” gives the tune a new life. The set ends with a wordless meditative dialogue with Silva on piano.
Silva – Bell – Elation is a tantalizing album that will leave the listener mourning for the 20 years of great music missed out on while Dee Bell was recovering from theSagacious Grace fiasco.
Bell began playing music at home, where she grew up in a musical
family. She was first chair clarinet in the Plainfield High School band and
performed in an a cappella trio from age ten through to her senior year.
Bell graduated from Indiana University in December 1972 with a BS in
Art Education, lived on the edge of the Hoosier National Forest in a 2-
room cabin with a woodstove for heat, and was co-founder and head
chef of the Earth Kitchen vegetarian restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana
(the restaurant fostered the food cooperative and grocery store
Bell resides as of January 2009 in Mill Valley, California with her son and
husband. She continues to perform and write lyrics and music.