Feb 10, 2012
Blossom Dearie (1924-2009) was a jazz singer beloved by the cognoscenti from New York to London to Paris and beyond. Miles Davis and Gil Evans were among her famous fans and friends in the '50s, to be joined by John Lennon in the '60s. Dearie said her key influences included Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the team of George Burns & Gracie Allen; that, wrote jazz vocal authority Will Friedwald, was "a statement that speaks volumes about the nature of her music and the importance of humor therein, particularly mischievous, impish humor." Dearie paired a small-yet-pure voice with an ever-swinging sense of rhythm, and she had a deft way of delivering a lyric. Friedwald described the storytelling in her singing as being like a striptease, "giving up secrets only slowly and reluctantly." Traditional love songs were a part of Blossom’s set list, but she was better known for tunes that skirted the main stream.
Today’s Music for Lovers is from singer Amy Cervini, from her latest CD, Digging Me, Digging You, a tribute to Blossom. It’s far more than homage to Dearie's vocal sensibility and repertoire; it's also tribute of sorts to old-school artists and the way they made records back “in the day.” Ms. Cervini and her "family" of musicians - including pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Matt Aronoff, drummer Matt Wilson, clarinetist Anat Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen, among others - recorded mostly live in the studio with everyone together, without rehearsals and in a single eight-hour day. The results are both spontaneous and spirited.
I asked Amy to pick a song from the CD for this “Music for Lovers” series, and she responded in a way that I suspect Blossom would have truly liked:
Since love is so many things to so many people, picking love songs can be dangerous territory. I try to find something in the lyric that I’ve had experience with so that it rings true. I’m lucky to have had some pretty great experiences in love. While I definitely can’t sing “Guess Who I Saw Today” with true authority, I can sing “Down With Love.” I think everyone can relate to that! Blossom’s delivery on that song almost seems to be daring the next lover to come along. I hear it as kind of hopeful from her...not an anti-love anthem.