Blossom Dearie – Universal Music Group

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Verve/Universal Music Group releases a re-mastered vinyl of an overlooked jazz performer.

Blossom Dearie – Verve Records MG V-2037 (1957)/Universal Music Group B0037206-01 180-gram mono vinyl, 38:12 ****1/2:

(Blossom Dearie – piano, vocals; Herb Ellis – guitar; Ray Brown – double bass; Jo Jones – drums)

Pianist and vocalist Blossom Dearie had an unlikely ascent to jazz stardom. After brief stints on the New York scene, she traveled to Paris to play and record. Verve producer Norman Ganz heard the singer in France, and recruited her to the label. At Verve, she recorded six albums, beginning in 1957. Dearie shared the bill at the Village Vanguard with Miles Davis, and regained momentum with a live album in England. Her quirky vocals and simple piano accompaniment were her customary tools. She was interested in jazz pianists like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Bill Evans cited her as an influence, but Dearie never garnered the accolades from critics. 

Universal Music Group has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of Blossom Dearie. This Verve debut (1958), features a top-notch ensemble (Herb Ellis/guitar; Ray Brown/double bass and Jo Jones/drums) in a 14-song compilation (clocking in at just over 38 minutes) of a wide variety of compositions. Side 1 opens with a gentle swing version of “‘Deed I Do”. Dearie’s relaxed crystalline vocals capture the breezy aesthetics of the song. Herb Ellis contributes a crisp guitar solo and complements the singer. Slowing things down to a bluesy tempo, Dearie takes on the Billie Holiday classic, “Lover Man”. Her intonation and deliberate phrasing is immaculate. She creates her own version of this number. Three Richard Rodgers songs are covered. “Everything I’ve Got” steps up the pace. Dearie’s vocals are playful and her piano lines are lyrical, including a glowing solo. Things get slightly “precious” on the English version of “Comment Allez Vous” with “big band” backup singers. One of the highlights of this album is an instrumental cover of the eternal standard, “More Than You Know”. Dearie’s piano lead is articulate and straight-forward with Ellis injecting colorful accents. Adopting medium swing and syncopation, “Thou Swell” adopts a finger-snapping vibe with jazzy vocals and a vibrant blues-infused piano run. Another pleasant surprise is the French-language version of “It Might As Well Be Spring”. The upper-register vocal range and control is impressive.

After a light-hearted skipping French tune (“Tout Doucement”), Dearie re-engages a jazzier vibe on “You For Me”. Her grasp of lyrical expression, range and tempo here is compelling. Ellis, Brown and Jones are a cohesive rhythm section. With punctuated rhythm and coolness, “I Hear Music” might be the most skilled performance on the album, showcasing jazz buoyancy and pedigree. A third Rodgers composition, is a gossamer ballad that is focused on Dearie’s interpretative skills. “I Won’t Dance’ is sprightly and has a call and response with vocals and Ellis’ guitar. Jones’ brush work is flawless and Dearie finishes the last chorus in French and English. The finale is a slowed-down version of “A Fine Spring Morning”. Dearie is capable of translating “cute” lyrics into tender melancholy. 

Kudos to UMG for re-mastering Blossom Dearie to audiophile vinyl. Her unique voice is captured with pristine clarity. This is a jazz artist whose trailblazing career needs a broader audience.

—Robbie Gerson

Blossom Dearie       

TrackList:

Side 1: ‘Deed I Do; Lover Man; Everything I’ve Got; Comment Allez-Vous; More Than You Know; Thou Swell; It Might As Well Be Spring

Side 2: Tout Doucement; You For Me; Now At Last; I Hear Music; Wait Till You See Her; I Won’t Dance; A Fine Spring Morning 

More information through Amazon  

Album Cover for Blossom Dearie



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