Blossom Dearie — Demanding Maverick
BY FRED BOUCHARD
Fred Bouchard is a journalist, an educator and longtime contibutor to DownBeat magazine. He is also an occasional contributor to Seacoast Jazz Notes and once a Contributing Music Critic for the Boston Herald American, which is where this article was originally published on Friday, March 30, 1979.
Don’t be fooled by her gossamer tresses, teensy voice and cute name: Blossom Dearie is a maverick
Blossom Dearie writes most of her songs, plays her own piano, runs her own record company (Daffodil), books her own tours (recently to Japan and Australia). She demands silence when she sings, which she will do at Lulu’s on April 1 and 8, at 4 and 6 p.m. Though delightfully feminine, she never clubs you with sex, brass, or harmlessness. Rather she wins you with subtle, witty songs, sung with great care and clarity.
Blossom Dearie’s name, like her artistry, is as real as it is captivating. Blossom Dearie’s tiny, precise voice — with its hummingbird-quick vibrato, tuning-fork pitch and sweet sibilants — can plump up the pillows inside your heart and curl up there forever. But behind her pastel demeanor and simply sophisticated allure, is a hard-working woman, perfectionist, and uncompromising to a fault.
“I’m extremeley conscientous,” she admits. “I take care of all my own business myself, because I simply don’t know who I’d entrust it to.” The demure, handsome veteran of Woody Herman’s Blue Flames and King Pleasure’s group has been equally independent musically for nearly all her career. She sings songs no one else dares, and sings her own, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Dave Frishberg and others, best of all.
Her press set at Lulu’s comprised old favorites that she fusses over tenderly like potted plants and makes blossom ever-fresh: funny songs, wistful reminiscences on favorite places, disarmingly direct love songs (“I Like You, You’re Nice”) and gaily demanding ones, like “Peel Me a Grape”: “Don’t try to fool me/bejewel me, Show me you love me/kid-glove me.”
Blossom Dearie’s Sunday matinee at Lulu’s will be her first Boston appearances in more than a decade. She may be an acquired taste, but she is delectable. If Sarah Vaughan is the Empress and Ella Fitzgerald is the First Lady, then Blossom Dearie ought to be the Princess of Pianissimo.