Blossom Dearie, “Somebody New”

I have long admired the singing of the late Blossom Dearie, who effortlessly conjured up a world of rueful sophistication with immaculate phrasing. “Blossom Dearie” was he real name. This New York Times obituary captures her very well:

Blossom Dearie, the jazz pixie with a little-girl voice and pageboy haircut who was a fixture in New York and London nightclubs for decades, died on Saturday at her apartment in Greenwich Village. She was 84.

She died in her sleep of natural causes, said her manager and representative, Donald Schaffer. Her last public appearances, in 2006, were at her regular Midtown Manhattan stomping ground, the now defunct Danny’s Skylight Room.

A singer, pianist and songwriter with an independent spirit who zealously guarded her privacy, Ms. Dearie pursued a singular career that blurred the line between jazz and cabaret. An interpretive minimalist with caviar taste in songs and musicians, she was a genre unto herself. Rarely raising her sly, kittenish voice, Ms. Dearie confided song lyrics in a playful style below whose surface layers of insinuation lurked. Her cheery style influenced many younger jazz and cabaret singers, most notably Stacey Kent and the singer and pianist Daryl Sherman.

But just under her fey camouflage lay a needling wit. If you listened closely, you could hear the scathing contempt she brought to one of her signature songs, “I’m Hip,” the Dave Frishberg-Bob Dorough demolition of a namedropping bohemian poseur. Ms. Dearie was for years closely associated with Mr. Frishberg and Mr. Dorough. It was Mr. Frishberg who wrote another of her perennials, “Peel Me a Grape.”

Ms. Dearie didn’t suffer fools gladly and was unafraid to voice her disdain for music she didn’t like; the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber were a particular pet peeve.

The other side of her sensibility was a wistful romanticism most discernible in her interpretations of Brazilian bossa nova songs, material ideally suited to her delicate approach. Her final album, “Blossom’s Planet” (Daffodil), released in 2000, includes what may be the definitive interpretation of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave” Her dreamy attenuated rendition finds her voice floating away as though to sea, or to heaven, on lapping waves of tastefully synthesized strings.

“Blossom Dearie Sings” was the first album on her own label, Daffodil Records. It blends an early-seventies sensibility with a more timeless, jazz-tinged approach. The whole album has the cool, witty yet yearning vibe captured in the NYT obituary. “Somebody New” encapsulates this very well:

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