Monday, February 9, 2009

RIP Blossom Dearie

Blossom Dearie (April 28, 1926 – February 7, 2009 ) was an American jazz singer and pianist, often performing in the bebop genre and known for her "distinctive, girlish voice".
Dearie was born Marguerite Blossom Dearie in East Durham, New York.[4] As a child, she studied Western classical piano but switched to jazz in her teens. After high school, Dearie moved to New York City to pursue a music career. There, she began singing in groups such as the Blue Flames (with the Woody Herman Orchestra) and the Blue Reys (with Alvino Rey's band) before launching a solo career.

In 1952, she moved to Paris and formed a vocal group, the Blue Stars. In 1954, the group had a hit in France with a French-language version of "Lullaby of Birdland". The Blue Stars would later evolve into the Swingle Singers. While in Paris, she met her future husband, the Belgian flautist and saxophonist Bobby Jaspar. On her first solo album, released two years later, she plays the piano but does not sing.

One of her most famous songs from that period is "The Riviera", which was written and composed by Cy Coleman and Joseph McCarthy Jr. in 1956.

[edit] Late 1950s and 1960s

After returning from France, Dearie made her first six American albums as a solo singer and pianist for Verve Records in the late 1950s and early 1960s, mostly in a small trio or quartet setting. Dave Garroway, host of The Today show and an early fan of Dearie, featured her several times, increasing her exposure with the popular audience. In 1962, she recorded a song for a radio commercial of Hires Root Beer. As it proved very popular, the LP Blossom Dearie Sings Rootin' Songs was released as a premium item that could be ordered for one dollar and a proof of purchase.

In 1964, she recorded her best-known album, which was released on Capitol/EMI Records, titled May I Come In? It was recorded, atypically for her, with an orchestra. During this same period, Dearie performed frequently in New York supper clubs and honed her own distinctive style. In 1966, she made her first appearance at Ronnie Scott's club in London and quickly became a popular act. She went on to record four albums in Britain in the 1960s released on the Fontana label.

[edit] 1970s and later

In 1974, Dearie established her own label, Daffodil Records, which allowed her to have full control of the recording and distribution of her albums. Dearie has also appeared on television throughout her career, most notably giving her voice to the children's educational series Schoolhouse Rock!. Some of her pieces in this series were written by her good friend Bob Dorough, the jazz singer and composer. Her voice can be heard on "Mother Necessity", "Figure Eight" and "Unpack Your Adjectives".

Her distinctive voice and songs have been featured on the soundtracks of several films, including Kissing Jessica Stein, My Life Without Me, The Squid and the Whale and The Adventures of Felix. She has also recorded with various musicians, including Bob Dorough and Lyle Lovett.

Dearie continued to perform in clubs until 2007. One of the last remaining supper-club performers, she performed regular engagements in London and New York City over many years.

Dearie died on February 7, 2009, at her apartment in Greenwich Village, New York City.

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