When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

08 February 2009

Blossom Dearie, RIP

Blossom Dearie, the American singer whose little-girl voice and jazzy piano arrangements offered a unique approach to show tunes and the Great American Songbook, died Feb. 7 at her home in Greenwich Village, according to colleagues.


She showed an interest in the piano as a child, and was seduced by jazz over classical. After high school, she moved to New York City. In the late 1940s and '50s, Ms. Dearie sang with jazz bands and plunged into the jazz-club community. She performed in Paris, which led to many fresh contacts for the singer. Norman Granz of Verve Records signed her to a contract of six albums, and the CD re-releases of those discs have now reached new generations.

With her chunky glasses, pageboy haircut and decidedly unsexy look, she nonetheless had a kittenish, wispy voice that was unlike any in pop music. While artists such as Peggy Lee or Julie London boasted smoky sexuality, Ms. Dearie, for decades, always sounded a little bit like a 14-year-old girl caught up in the cigarette smoke and syncopated swirl of the Manhattan club scene.
Playbill New York: Blossom Dearie, Vocalist Whose Wispy Voice Caressed Show Music and Standards, Has Died (8 Feb 2009)

The first live jazz show I ever attended - while I was still a college kid - was Blossom Dearie, Dave Frishberg, and Bob Dorough playing a black-tie fundraiser at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It was one hell of a good performance, on all counts.

I was there, believe it or not, as a "journalist" (writing for the alternative newspaper on campus), and these three gracious, generous, talented folks put up with my idiotic questions after the show and gave me great quotes anyway.

Thanks for being kind to a nineteen year-old kid who thought he knew a little something about jazz, Ms. Dearie.

Here's a short clip featuring Blossom Dearie in her prime.

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