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Verve Jazz Masters, Vol. 51: Blossom Dearie

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Album Review

Long an icon among jazz musicians and fans alike, this album samples tunes from the six albums Blossom Dearie made for Norman Granz' Verve label during the period 1956 to 1960. Dearie doesn't have a particularly big voice, but, like a will-o-wisp, she skirts through her material in a whispery, smoky tone that demands and receives attention from her audience, whether that audience be in a club or concert, or listening to one of her many albums. She exudes a coy sexiness that adds an aura to her interpretations few other vocal artists have been able to match. This album is loaded with Dearie gems. Her classic rendition of "Once Upon a Summertime" with Mundel Lowe, Ray Brown, and Ed Thigpen typifies her ability to avoid the routine by turning the song she is performing into an intimate storytelling session. "Someone to Watch Over Me" comes across like a waif begging to be cuddled against the world's trials and tribulations, made even more endearing by the slight tremor in Dearie's voice. Her ability to get away with an unusual interpretation of a well-worn standard comes through on her slow, languorous rendition of "Tea for Two" with her piano inserting exclamation points at the right places, helping her to make her musical point. Her renowned ability to expand her interpretative ability by singing in French is shown off in "I Won't Dance." Dearie was also equally at home with less familiar material. In fact, she excels at delivering the lesser-performed tunes, infusing a life into them others seem unable to achieve. Along these lines, this album treats us to such melodies as "Little Jazz Bird" (which Dearie pretty much has made her own), "Bang Goes the Drum," and on her own "Dearie's Blues," showcasing her facility for combining wordless and regular singing the same line of lyric. All of the cuts but one on the album are small group sessions with the artist doing her own work on piano, thus avoiding the task of coming up with a good accompanist which most vocalists must cope with. The one cut with an orchestra, led by Russ Garcia, confirms that Dearie, with her light voice, is more effective with a small group.

For those who want to sample Dearie's work, this compilation should fill the bill. And for her dyed-in-the-wool fans, this album allows them to visit highlights of her work with Verve on a single CD.


Born: 28 April 1926 in East Durham, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A distinctive, girlish voice, crisp, impeccable delivery, and an irrepressible sense of playful swing made Blossom Dearie one of the most enjoyable singers of the vocal era. Her warmth and sparkle ensured that she'd never treat standards as the well-worn songs they often appeared in less capable hands. And though her reputation was made on record with a string of excellent albums for Verve during the '50s, she remained a draw with Manhattan cabaret audiences long into the new millennium. Actually...
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Verve Jazz Masters, Vol. 51: Blossom Dearie, Blossom Dearie
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