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Dee Bell - All Music

Biography by Matt Collar

Silva Bell Elation

A dusky vocalist whose warm sound evokes the breezy sophistication of '50s
West Coast jazz, Dee Bell first came to the public's attention with her 1982
debut, Let There Be Love, featuring legendary saxophonist Stan Getz. A
regular presence in the Bay Area, Bell spent several years away from
performing before returning to consistent work in the 2010s. In 2014, she
debuted her ongoing collaboration with Brazilian pianist Marcos Silva on Silva
Bell Elation.

Born in 1950 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bell was encouraged to play music from a
young age, and started out on clarinet. She also sang, and from age ten onward
performed in an a cappella trio. After high school she attended Indiana
University, where she earned her bachelor of science in arts education. While
there, she further honed her vocal skills studying with noted opera singer
Eileen Farrell. Interested in nutrition, she initially pivoted away from the arts,
instead founding the Earth Kitchen vegetarian restaurant in 1972. During
this period, she lived in a two-room cabin on the edge of the Hoosier National
Forest, where she often spent her off hours singing outdoors. In 1978, she
moved to Northern California with hopes of pursuing her singing career. It was
there, while waitressing at the Sausalito restaurant Trident on the San
Francisco Bay, that she befriended jazz guitarist Eddie Duran and began
sitting in with his trio. Around the same time, a chance encounter with Stan
Getz at the famed Keystone Korner nightclub led to Bell recording her debut
album, Let There Be Love. Released on Concord in 1982, the album showcased
Bell alongside Getz and Duran.

A second album, One by One, followed in 1984
and featured a guest appearance by trumpeter Tom Harrell.

Sagacious Grace
While Bell enjoyed a steady flow of gigs and a loyal following, she still made
ends meet by working a day job at an ad agency. In 1990, she planned on
releasing her third album, Sagacious Grace, featuring saxophonist Houston
Person. However, a recording glitch discovered during mastering rendered the
album unreleasable. Over the next decade Bell slowly moved away from
performing, balancing the occasional live show with raising her son and working
as a children's music teacher. It would be over 20 years before she returned to
more active performing. By then, advancements in digital remastering allowed
the Sagacious Grace tapes to be salvaged, and Bell finally issued the album in
2011.

Around this time, while performing at a tribute to longtime Bay Area jazz
publicist Merrilee Trost, Bell caught the ear of Brazilian-born multi-instrumentalist
Marcos Silva. She had lost her longtime music director, Al
Plank, to cancer in 2003 and was looking to put together a new project. The
duo struck up a friendship, and collaborated on the 2014 album Silva Bell
Elation, which found them reinterpreting standards, pop tunes, and Brazilian
songs. In 2018, Bell and Silva returned with Lins, Lennox, & Life, another set
of Brazilian-infused jazz, featuring guest trumpeter Erik Jekabson