Ms. Alexander, a youngish veteran with a wide range both octave- and repertoire-wise, was making her long-awaited and well-deserved Orchestra Hall debut, and should be invited to return. Re predecessors, she’s out of the Sarah Vaughan camp but writes much of her own material and last summer at the Chicago Jazz Festival was strong in a Nelson Mandela-tribute for big band led by AACM saxophonist Ernest Dawkins. Her performances are always imbued with bluesy, personal warmth that makes even occasional awkward turns of phrase (can the word “dysfunctional” work in a lyric?) forgivable/ignorable. She opened with a graceful rendition of Billie Holiday’s flirtatious “Now Baby or Never,” included her original “Butterfly” which shows off dazzling extended vocal techniques, and ended with “Lonesome Lover,” by Abbey Lincoln comprising both scat singing and a clarion call (it’s on Dee’s most recent cd, Songs My Mother Loves). Throughout, her trio of pianist Miguel de la Cerna, bassist Junius Paul and drummer Yusef Ernie Adams was supportive if not assertive, and from a perch in the third balcony, sound was clear if softer than I would have preferred. – Howard Mandel – Jazz Beyond Jazz – March 13, 2015
Singer Dee Alexander’s Breakout Moment – The New York Times called her appearance at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival one of the year’s 10 best. For jazz singer Dee Alexander the praise is terrific, she’s ready for success, but she is patient. After all, she has been making music in Chicago since the 1970s. Her new album, “Songs My Mother Loves,” is a critically heralded collection of jazz standards chosen with her mother. Saxophonist Oliver Lake appeared on the album and will join Alexander at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival this coming Saturday for a set that is sure to embody Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich’s observation that “jazz is the sound of surprise.” Chicago Tonite – WTTW 2013
DEE ALEXANDER Newport Jazz Festival, Aug. 4. One of the concerts with staying power. A standout performance at this year’s festival by a jazz singer form Chicago; it was both low key and extraordinary, with well-worn standards and risky originals, earthiness and high-flown mysticism. – December 2013- Ben Rattliff – New York Times You usually don’t hear jazz singers taking on James Brown’s “Sex Machine” or Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” But one brave Chicago vocalist will be plunging headlong into this music Friday night, when the apparently fearless Dee Alexander takes the stage of the South Shore Cultural Center to perform “Funkin’ With Electric Soul,” her homage to two giants of American music who flourished well outside of jazz. December 4, 2013 – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
Dee Alexander unleashed her “Butterfly.” Here, at last, she broke free of convention and predictability. Snarling and hissing some phrases, bounding to her highest register before dipping fearlessly down low, inventing sounds and vocal effects no one this planet could imitate, Alexander captured the spirit of Fitzgerald’s work, but utterly on Alexander’s terms. April 1, 2012 – Howard Reich A Chicago vocalist of remarkable range and flexibility, Alexander can unspool high-flying scat singing one moment, luxuriant melody-making the next. Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune – June 28, 2012
The indispensable Chicago singer, whose vocabulary of novel sounds reflects an uncommonly creative spirit. July 26, 2012 – Chicago Tribune
Alexander, who commands the widest stylistic range of the singers, showed how much color that remarkable instrument of hers can produce in an unusually slow version of the Gershwins’ “Oh, Lady Be Good.” She slathered Ellington’s “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” with luscious, bluesy swells of sound, and her instrument hardly could have sounded more voluptuous in his “Drop Me Off in Harlem.” August 31, 2012 – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune There’s not much Dee Alexander can’t do. She’s as resourceful a vocal improviser as I’ve ever heard, with astonishing control of pitch and modulation, and she’s just as adept at working a standard as she is at threading wordless sounds and abstract melodic shapes into a loose, freewheeling record like last year’s Blissful (Rogue Art), a knockout session led by drummer Hamid Drake. On her first properly released album, Wild Is the Wind (Blujazz), she covers her entire dizzying range in a rock-solid set of tightly focused tunes, displaying both awesome technique and rare discipline and making a strong case for herself as one of the most exciting jazz singers on the planet. On the title track she opens by shaping the sorrowful melody with a light touch; even more impressive, her performance stays just as nuanced when she swells into a huge crescendo. And her detours into pure sound- like her imitations of violin pizzicato on the reggaefied ballad “Rossignol”-are never self-indulgent, displaying an economy and focus I wish more scatters would embrace. She performs tonight with some of her favorite collaborators: bassist Harrison Bankhead and pianist Miguel de la Cerna (both of whom play on her new record), drummer Ernie Adams, and guest flutist Nicole Mitchell. This show is part of Fred Anderson’s 80th Birthday Tribute Festival; the headlining set is a “Jam for Fred” with special guests Hamiet Bluiett, Kidd Jordan, and Henry Grimes. Opening are the Ari Brown Quartet with Pharez Whitted, Alexander’s group, and Ernest Dawkins & the New Horizons Ensemble with Corey Wilkes. -Peter Margasak – Chicago Reader March 19, 2009
CD of the week – Dee Alexander: “Wild is the Wind” (Blujazz). The increasing international prominence of Chicago singer Alexander has made fans yearn for an up-to-date portrait of her art. That now arrives with this CD, which shows how much Alexander has developed as interpreter and technician. Performing unorthodox repertoire by such Chicago innovators as Light Henry Huff and Alexander herself, the recording shows the singer in splendid voice and bristling with the spirit of invention. Howard Reich – Chicago Tribune February 10. 2009 She was everywhere in 2007: Attracting throngs to Millennium Park; swinging joyously outside the South Shore Cultural Center; pushing into experimental music at the Velvet Lounge; improvising buoyantly at the first Hyde Park Jazz Festival.
But it wasn’t merely the frequency of Dee Alexander’s performances, or just the stylistic breadth of her work, that distinguished her. Perhaps more important, she sang with such interpretive depth and dramatic power as to force listeners to re-evaluate the music she makes. Though Alexander has been performing in her hometown for decades, in the past year she took on the most daring projects of her career and made them sing. – December 30, 2007 Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
Versatile jazz vocalist is a Dee-light to behold One of the joys of living in Chicago remains the opportunity to hear the jubilant Dee Alexander sing.Equally adept in mainstream swing and outer-fringe experimentation, big-band jazz and small-group fare, Alexander stands as a jazz vocalist for all occasions. Last year, she performed thunderously with the Great Black Music Ensemble at the Museum of Contemporary Art, during a 40th anniversary celebration for the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Last May, she dispatched straight-ahead standards to disarming effect at the intimate 50 Yard Line club, on the South Side.
When she leads her quartet this weekend at the Green Mill Jazz Club, in Uptown, there’s a good chance she’ll touch all bases, veering from straightforward repertoire to more experimental fare, from familiar tunes to autobiographical originals. Howard Reich – April 4, 2006 – Chicago Tribune
If they gave a Most Valuable Player award for the Chicago Jazz Festival, this year’s honor would have to go to the hardest-working woman in show business: vocalist Dee Alexander. In addition to performing buoyantly with the Great Black Music Ensemble on Saturday night at the Petrillo Music Shell, she held forth brilliantly during late-night sets at the Velvet Lounge and HotHouse, singing, chanting, sighing, shouting and otherwise producing previously unencountered sounds. In a sense, Alexander epitomized the no-nonsense, hard-working Chicago jazz musicians who dominated the 27th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, which ended Sunday night. For though many visitors turned in fine work, the Chicagoans outdid themselves. Howard Reich, Tribune arts critic. Chicago Tribune. Sep 5, 2005
All I want for Christmas is a new album by Dee Alexander. Alas, she’s still working on her debut studio disc, but for anyone who’s heard her onstage lately–or heard her contributions to recent albums by local trumpeters Orbert Davis and Malachi Thompson–even the promise of one is enough to trump everything else on the wish list. A true jazz diva in the mold of Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Dianne Reeves, Alexander has an innate theatricality and enough pure musicality to overwhelm most of the instrumentalists with whom she shares the stage. She swings without effort, and rhythmically she’s so assured that she can take extensive detours around the beat without losing the audience. She applies that same authoritative ease to intonation: she can hit any note she chooses, which makes her husky alto a potent weapon whether she’s singing a stomp or a ballad. Yet for all that, she’s strongest as an improviser, especially when she mimics a horn: Alexander does a drop-dead imitation of trumpet and trombone, down to the idiosyncratic growls and smears of both, and she can trade solos with any wind player willing to engage her. In those moments, when she drops even the pretense of verbal language offered by scat syllables, she enters a realm of pure musical thought that most singers only dream about. –Neil Tesser Chicago Reader – December 2005