My Gentleman Friend by Blossom Dearie on Apple Music

10 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Blossom Dearie’s final album for Verve is a distillation of her talents. Backed by a restrained trio featuring Ray Brown on bass, Ed Thigpen on drums and Kenny Burrell on guitar, My Gentleman Friend places focus squarely on Blossom’s singing. While it is not her best known performance, Gershwin’s “Little Jazz Bird” is an anthem for the singer’s persona: “Just try my recipe / And I'm sure you'll agree / That a little jazz bird / Is the only kind of bird to be.” For a performer who sounded so small, she was actually one of the few artists of that era who exerted full control over her albums. She was a champion of unknown songwriters, especially Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, who contributed “You Fascinate Me So” and “It’s Too Good To Talk About Now” to this set. Blossom’s trademark was the girlish, whimsical, and tightly woven swing she brings to songs like “Boum” and “Chez Moi,” but she can also communicate feeling without any gimmick or pretension, as on “Hello Love.” She sings like a girl, but handles “Someone to Watch Over Me” like a soul with several lifetimes’ worth of experience.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Blossom Dearie’s final album for Verve is a distillation of her talents. Backed by a restrained trio featuring Ray Brown on bass, Ed Thigpen on drums and Kenny Burrell on guitar, My Gentleman Friend places focus squarely on Blossom’s singing. While it is not her best known performance, Gershwin’s “Little Jazz Bird” is an anthem for the singer’s persona: “Just try my recipe / And I'm sure you'll agree / That a little jazz bird / Is the only kind of bird to be.” For a performer who sounded so small, she was actually one of the few artists of that era who exerted full control over her albums. She was a champion of unknown songwriters, especially Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, who contributed “You Fascinate Me So” and “It’s Too Good To Talk About Now” to this set. Blossom’s trademark was the girlish, whimsical, and tightly woven swing she brings to songs like “Boum” and “Chez Moi,” but she can also communicate feeling without any gimmick or pretension, as on “Hello Love.” She sings like a girl, but handles “Someone to Watch Over Me” like a soul with several lifetimes’ worth of experience.

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About Blossom Dearie

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 born with the name Blossom Dearie in the New York Catskills, she began playing piano at an early age and studied classical music before making the switch to jazz while in high school. After graduation, she moved to New York and began appearing with vocal groups like the Blue Flames (attached to Woody Herman) and the Blue Reys (with Alvino Rey). She also played cocktail piano around the city, and moved to Paris in 1952 to form her own group, the Blue Stars of France. Dearie also appeared in a nightclub act with Annie Ross, and made a short, uncredited appearance on King Pleasure's vocalese classic, "Moody's Mood for Love." She recorded an obscure album of piano solos, and in 1954, the Blue Stars hit the national charts with a French version of "Lullaby of Birdland."

After hearing Dearie perform in Paris in 1956, Norman Granz signed her to Verve and she returned to America by the end of the year. Her eponymous debut for Verve featured a set of standards that slanted traditional pop back to its roots in Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and cabaret. Her focus on intimate readings of standards ("Deed I Do," "Thou Swell") and the relaxed trio setting (bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jo Jones, plus Dearie on piano) drew nods to her cabaret background.

On her next few records, Dearie stuck to her focus on standards and small groups, though her gift for songwriting emerged as well with songs like "Blossom's Blues." She performed in solo settings at supper clubs all over New York, and appeared on the more cultured of the late-'50s New York talk shows. Her husband, flutist Bobby Jaspar, made several appearances on her records, notably 1959's My Gentleman Friend. After a recording break in the early '60s, Blossom Dearie signed to Capitol for one album (1964's May I Come In?), but then recorded sparingly during the rest of the decade.

Finally, in the early '70s, she formed her own Daffodil Records label and began releasing her own work, including 1974's Blossom Dearie Sings and the following year's My Favorite Celebrity Is You. She also performed at Carnegie Hall with Anita O'Day and Joe Williams, billed as the Jazz Singers. She continued to perform and record during the 1980s through to the early 2000s, centered mostly in New York but also a regular attraction in London as well. She retired from playing live in 2006 due to health concerns and died quietly in her Greenwich Village apartment on February 7, 2009. ~ John Bush

  • ORIGIN
    East Durham, NY
  • BORN
    Apr 28, 1926

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