Dee Alexander & MJO; how it all began.
It started in 2017 when I first heard Dee sing at the Green Mill. I was immediately taken by her musicality, stunning voice and fearlessness.
Her singing was relaxed, engaged and full of love. On a break, I introduced myself and mentioned the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. “Jim, I know who you are," she said. "I play your music all the time on my radio show!" Dee knew more about me than I did of her; I was charmed, to say the least.
In May of 2018, MJO released their CD “The Road To Your Place”, and debuted the music with a performance at Steve Rashid’s Studio5 in Evanston.
I asked Dee to join us for a song or two; she sang two of her originals and “Somebody’s on My Mind”, originally recorded by Billie Holiday for Decca Records (1949).
It’s a lovely and beguiling song by Arthur Herzog and I was excited for the opportunity to arrange it for Dee and the band. The result was something slightly more modern that still retained the charm of the original recording. Studio5 was a great-looking and great-sounding venue for our cd release concert. With Dee as guest artist it was not surprising that the show sold out. Soon afterwards, Dee and the band discussed working together on an album and it was the arrangement of Billie Holiday’s “Somebody’s on My Mind” that led us to the idea of doing an album dedicated to the music of Billie Holiday, featuring Dee. The project is called “It's Too Hot for Words”; Dee selected 10 songs for this album, each is arranged by members of MJO - Doug Scharf, John Kornegay, and myself, Jim Gailloreto. We also enlisted DePaul Jazz Studies professor and top notch Chicago arranger, Tom Matta. I am happy to say that we are well on our way to recording these amazing songs at the recording studio in Delmark Records.
2019 is the 60th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s passing. We were not aware of this milestone during our performance and subsequent planning, but that revelation made this project all the more significant and meaningful. It is tragic that Billie Holiday left us so soon. At the same time, we are very fortunate that her story and legacy lives on through her extensive discography; each recording is an inspiration to all of us. I hope you seek out the album “Dee Sings Billie” and our upcoming appearances in Chicago and beyond. It will an opportunity to experience Billie’s music through a new lens and I promise it will be a beautiful journey.