Blossom Dearie: The Early Years Collection

Dearie's fine pianism and unique little-girl voice are captured in 96 tracks featuring Bobby Jasper, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell and Ray Brown


The thing about Blossom was, of course, that she was both a fine jazz singer and a very competent pianist. Singers who accompany themselves are rare, but Ms B also added an intimate, attractive, never forced, natural little-girl voice that was unique. Jazz musicians accompanying her must have loved her for there was never any need to fit into the line when she extended a note to extremes or shortened one for effect. She could swing with the best of them, and her phrasing and timing were excellent.

Culled from recordings made from 1948 to 1960, this four-CD box contains 96 tracks. CD1 features tracks from 1948 and 1952 including an early King Pleasure version of Moody’s Mood For Love where Blossom shares the jazz vocal with him. There is an early set of songs from a Barclay LP made in Paris where she sings only, sometimes in French with a big band. On a few tunes she shares vocals with two French singers. There are also eight tracks from a French trio session where she plays piano only, along with a bass player and drummer. The unique Blossom style of playing piano is already in place on these 1954 pieces. CD1 is rounded out by four hardy standards with a French rhythm section and Bobby Jasper, her husband by that time, on flute. Blossom is on piano only but the best music here is from Jasper’s lively flute, his notes clear and mellifluous.

CD2 is a healthy mix of standards and lesser-known songs backed by Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Jo Jones. Blossom’s version of Thou Swell is all her own and unlike any other reading of this well-known standard. Somehow, she had the ability to make well-trodden music sound fresh and all her own. Eleven pieces here are Blossom singing only.

CD3 features a batch of mainly standards, with backing again from Herb Ellis on guitar, bassist Ray Brown and Jo Jones at the drums. Blossom’s voice is light, bright and for the most part cheeky in a good way. It is mostly on instrumentals that she occasionally plays piano, in a sombre but affecting manner. Very rarely she will introduce a sad, brooding vocal as on Now At Last and Wait Till You See Him. Throughout the programme she is buoyant on most selections on both piano and vocals with sturdy support from the rhythm section. On CD3 the guitar duties are split between Ellis, Kenny Burrell and Mundell Lowe with Ray Brown still in attendance. They are nearly all standards here. Blossom sings in her engaging, highly original style; on a couple of tunes she sounds about 10 years old. It still seems natural and inevitable though. There never was another singer quite like her.

CD4 has music from the albums Blossom Dearie Sings Comden And Green and Soubrette: Blossom Dearie Sings Broadway Hits. On these she is accompanied by a West Coast band with Paul Horn and Dave Pell on reeds and Larry Bunker leaving his drums to play a clattering xylophone. Jimmy Rowles takes over piano duties. Blossom left us in 2009 aged 84 and I doubt there will ever be another jazz singer and pianist with quite such a personal sound.

CD1: In The Merry Land Of Bop; Be Still TV; Short P Not LP; Moody’s Mood For Love; La Legende Du Pays Des Oiseaux; Embrasse-Moi Bien; Toute Ma Joie; The Portuguese Washerwoman; Tout Bas; La Danse Du Baiser; Mambo Italiano; Plus Je T’Embrasse; Mister L’Amour; En 1920; The Continental; The Boy Next Door; They Can’t Take That Away From Me; Moonlight Saving Time; The Surrey With the Fringe On Top; April In Paris; Blue Moon; Down In The Depths On The Ninetieth Floor; Old Devil Moon; Autumn In New York; Flamingo; There Will Never Be Another You (71.22)
CD2: Deed I Do; Lover Man; Everything I Have Got Is Yours; Comment Allez Vous; More Than You Know; Thou Swell; It Might As Well Be Spring; Tout Doucement; You For Me; Now At Last; I Hear Music; Wait Till You See Him; I Won’t Dance; A Fine Spring Morning; Just One Of Those Things; Like Someone In Love; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea; They Say It’s Spring; Try Your Wings; Bang Goes The Drum; The Riviera; The Middle Of Love; Plus Je T’Embrasse; Give Him The Ooh La La; Let Me Love You (72.21)
CD3: I Walk A Little Faster; Tea For Two; The Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Moonlight Saving Time; It Amazes Me; If I Were A Bell; We’re Together; Teach Me Tonight; Once Upon A Summertime; Down With Love; Manhattan; Doop-Doo-De-Doop; Love Is Here To Stay; Lucky To Be Me; Just In Time; Some Other Time; Dance Only With Me; I Like Myself; It’s Love; The Party’s Over; How Will He Know; Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me (71.41)
CD4: Lonely Town; Little Jazz Bird; Gentleman Friend; It’s Too Good To Talk About Now; Chez Moi; You Fascinate Me; You’ve Got Something I Want; Boum; L’Etang; Hello Love; Someone To Watch Over Me; Guys And Dolls; Confession; Rhode Island Is Famous For You; To Keep My Love Alive; Too Good For The average Man; The Gentleman Is A Dope; Always True To You In My Fashion; Napoleon; Life Upon The Wicked Stage; The Physician; Love Is The Reason; Buckle Down Winsock ( 73.17)
Dearie (v, p) with various combos and orchestras including Bobby Jasper (f); Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell (elg); Ray Brown (b); Jo Jones, Ed Thigpen (d). NYC, LA & Paris from May 1948 until February 1960.
Acrobat ACQCD 7166