Nicki Parrott – Dear Blossom – Arbours Records ARCD 19453 58:02 ****:

An immensely satisfying release.

( Nicki Parrott – vocals & bass; Chris Grasso – piano except track 4; Chuck Redd – vibes tracks 1,2,5,6,10,11,12,14; Lenny Robinson drums except tracks 4,13; Engelbert Wrobel – clarinet & tenor sax tracks 3,6,9,12; Vince Cherico – percussion tracks 1,5,14; Warren Vaché – cornet track 4)

Diminutive in stature and voice, Blossom Dearie was a one of a kind performer who delivered solid piano accompaniment behind her pixie-like voice. Dearie, who died in 2009, had some early success when she moved to Paris in 1952 and began a singing group called the Blue Stars (of which Bob Dorough was a part) and that group ultimately morphed into the Swingle Singers. Later in her career, she performed regularly in New York City supper clubs. Bassist and vocalist Nicki Parrott, while in no way trying to emulate Blossom Dearie, has delivered an immensely satisfying release called Dear Blossom that focusses on songs that were either written by or closely associated with her.

Parrott has light, breezy voice that is perfectly suited to this Dearie material starting with “I Wish You Love” which is done in a snappy bossa version that belies its French antecedents as Charles Trenet’s number Que reste-t-il de nos amours.( in the liner notes Roger Crane mistakenly uses the word nous ‘we’ rather than nos ‘our’). Paris’ imprint on Dearie creeps up in another French song that Parrott reprises called “Tout Doucement” by Emile Jean Mercadier and René Albert Clausier. Despite the occasional iffy Australian pronunciation of the French lyrics , Parrott is nevertheless quite effective and Englebert Wrobel delivers a solid clarinet solo.

In the land of hipness, Dearie developed a following due in no small way to her choice of vocal material. Being friends with Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough was also part of the equation. Parrott takes three of these iconic numbers, Dave Frishberg’s “Peel Me A Grape, the Frishberg and Dorough quick-witted “I’m Hip” and finally the Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz ditty “Rhode Island Is Famous For You” and makes them her own with equal measure of charm and fun.

Nicki Parrott has made all the right moves with this album and given her innate ability to swing, coupled with her fine tone and impeccable phrasing, she has captured the consummate performer that was Blossom Dearie.

I Wish You Love
Everything I’ve Got Belongs To You
I Walk A Little Faster
Peel Me A Grape
Inside A Silent Tear
Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
Dear Blossom
I’m Hip
Tout Document
Try Your Wings
Surrey With The Fringe On Top
Rhode Island Is Famous For You
It Amazes Me
It Might As Well Be Spring

—Pierre Giroux