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Dee Bell

Concord Jazz & Laser recording and performing vocalist with two recordings that hit the top twenty in USA jazz charts.

About Me

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 Awards. In 2010, the historic release of Sagacious Grace with Houston Person came out on the Laser label 20 years after it was recorded. Followed in 2014 by Silva.Bell.Elation with collaborator Marcos Silva. And in August 2018, Lins, Lennox, & Life, also on the Laser label is just now catching up to radio markets worldwide.

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 hotel performances.

Critical reception

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 the Sagacious Grace fiasco.

Lins, Lennox, & Life, released 6th August 2018 has jazz journalist and historian, Scott Yanow commenting in the liner notes - “It ...serves as a perfect introduction to the musical magic of Ivan Lins and the beautiful singing of Dee Bell.”

Personal life

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 Bloomingfoods).

Bell resides as of May 2014 in Dillon Beach, California with her son and husband. She continues to perform and write lyrics and music.

My Jazz Story

I love jazz because of the depth of connection expressed by jazz vocalists. I was first exposed to jazz when I heard Benny Goodman and used to play my clarinet along with his records at the age of 10. I met Eddie Jefferson who told me I had a great sound, Stan Getz who offered to play on my first recording, Dick Conte the great jazz radio announcer, Jaco Pastorius who sat in on a gig, Bobby McFerrin when we sang together, Carmen McRae and I won't tell that story, Helen Humes when she sang at the Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society...there are many more stories... The best show I ever attended was Antonio Carlos Jobim and family at the Paul Masson Vineyards. It was like participating in a beautiful dream. The first jazz record I bought was Billie Holiday. My advice to new listeners: Jazz is an acquired taste and is quite stimulating to the senses once you take the time to understand the creativity within the improvisation.

My House Concert Story

I attended a Madaline Eastman concert at Ernie Shelton's. Wonderfully intimate setting and a great concert.

My Favorites

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