Sunday, April 28, 2013

Birthday Girl: She's Hip

If nothing else, perhaps we can consider a few moments spent considering this lovely artist a corrective to yesterday's rather, I suppose, heavy-handed musical interlude.  Nothing, I think, could be less like that than the sophisticated magic of Miss Blossom Dearie, who had she not returned to Fabulon four years ago would be an I'm sure still girlish 89.

I still can't quite conceive that Manhattan no longer boasts the kinds of rooms in which Dearie and her fellow spirits once flourished, nor that she is no longer at the helm of some amusing boite on one side of town, while uptown a few dozen blocks one could find the likes of Bobby Short or Barbara Carroll and downtown somewhere warm and cosy hosting Karen Akers or Anne Francine.  I was lucky enough to live there in the waning days of cabaret, when going to see Blossom was just something one could do of a weekend; she tended to play in places that might have a cover charge, but not the kind the one had to save and plan for (as we did for the Rainbow Room or the Café Carlyle).

And don't be deceived:  her music may seem featherlike, but her lilting voice was still an instrument of remarkable suppleness and range, and her singing boasts a diction matched only by that of Mabel Mercer.  On top of that, she was a formidable pianist, able not merely, as here, to swing out a standard or two en français, but also wholly to reinterpret a number you think set in stone.  Don't believe me?  Check out her "Ladies Who Lunch."   It's eons away from Stritch - who does, admittedly, own the song outright, and never more so than in this sad week when she leaves New York behind - but in its own way equally implacable.

While she was around, Dearie was too often dismissed as just another fixture of the scene, a singer of knowing little novelty numbers like "Peel Me a Grape" and "My Attorney Bernie." She did them superbly, of course, but listening to her now, we know how much more there is to the kinds of songs she used sing in late-night clubs and can appreciate, now that they're all but gone, how singers, musicians like Blossom Dearie brought them to life.  C'est vraimença:  c'est le printemps.  Et je l'embrasse, toujours...


  1. Miss Dearie was divine...

    With Stritch gone, who indeed is left doing cabaret in Noo Yawk?

    Conversely, London has new cabaret venues springing up on a regular basis. Our latest (to which I have yet to save up to go for an evening) being the "Crazy Coqs" at Brasserie Zedel, which has stars of the like of Amanda McBroom, Donna McKechnie and Lorna Luft, and marvellous British gems such as Anne Reid, Eve Ferret and John Standing, and the newly-refurbed Hippodrome's "Matcham Room", at which Tony Christie, Ruthie Henshall, Judy Kuhn, Dionne Warwick and Stefanie Powers have all appeared in the past few months. Jx

  2. I saw Ms. Dearie's name in cabaret ads for years, decades really, but was not well enough informed to go check her out. My husband and I got to the Blossom party about a year too late. We fell in love with her recordings and play them all in the store. But sadly she was already gone by the time we discovered her. I die a bit inside each time I think of the years (and years) of opportunities I had to see her and didn't.