Pictured above is the final Blossom Dearie Trio,
Dave Silliman on Drums and Ray Kilday on Bass.
America's remarkable jazz pianist, vocalist, and composer from the bebop era who was able to bridge the gap between west side rhythm and east side lyrical content throughout a career that swung into the current century. Here's Blossom's story...
Jazz Vocalist and Pianist Blossom Dearie, her real name, was born in the little village of East Durham, in the Catskill Mountains of New York state. Her older brothers heralded her arrival by filling the house with pear blossoms, and she was named Blossom Margrethe(after her mother)Dearie. She was proudly of Scottish(Dearie) and Norwegian ancestry. At the age of two she was able to pick out songs on the family piano, and spent most of her young years finding laps to sit on at the piano to do just that. Debussy's Afternoon of the Faun was a favorite. Her mother remarked that unlike most children who would bang at the keys when in front of a piano, Blossom thoughtfully played songs from ear and memory. Lessons began around age five and she studied classical music until her teens. She was encouraged to enter the Peabody Conservatory but switched to jazz and, influenced by what she called, “the wonderful music of the time,” played throughout high school.
In the late 1940s, Blossom traveled to New York City where she spent time in vocal groups with bandleaders like Alvino Rey's Blue Reys, and Woody Herman's Blue Flames, and also accompanied other singers as well as played in between headlining acts at New York clubs. She was there for the Birth of the Cool, hanging in Gil Evans apartment with Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Her first recordings were playing piano on an Annie Ross record. Blossom marked the starting point of her career as 1950 when she sat down and paired piano, with voice, in a little club called the Chantilly in Greenwich Village. Her friend Tony Bennett stopped in often.
In that club Blossom was introduced to Nicole and Eddie Barclay who persuaded her to come to Paris to play and record. Her first solo album followed on the Barclay label. In Paris, Blossom worked with peers Annie Ross, Bobby Short and dear friend, Bob Dorough at the Mars Club and the Left Bank. Norman Granz stopped in and heard her; he asked that she record for him when she returned to the States. Stopping briefly to set the Blue Stars of France on their ear, and gain a Billboard hit with the "Lullaby of Birdland"(sung in French), she returned to the U.S. in 1956.
What followed were six phenomenal albums for Verve Records. Blossom Dearie, Give Him The Ooh La La, Once Upon A Summertime, Soubrette Sings Broadway Hit Songs, Sings Comden and Green, and her favorite, My Gentleman Friend. Oscar Peterson's rhythm section rounded out Blossom's band incuding Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, Jo Jones, and Mundell Lowe. My Gentleman Friend featured her husband, Belgian flautist Bobby Jaspar. Michel Legrand's first English release was her version of "La Valse des Lilas" or, as we know it, Once Upon A Summertime, with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Verve and Universal are releasing these albums as special "Remastered for Itunes" versions this year!
In the 1960s Blossom shared the bill with Miles Davis at the Village Vanguard. Miles was amazed that Blossom would tell her audiences to, "Quiet down" or otherwise make requests when they were less than attentive. Blossom recorded an album for Capitol Records entitled “May I Come In.” She also recorded four albums for Fontana in England. Her favorite of those was the live album, “Blossom Time at Ronnie Scott’s.” The BBC was instrumental in Blossom's developing worldwide following. As well as her introduction to musical admirer, John Lennon. They wrote songs for each other.
The 1970s saw Blossom transition from a club performer to a concert performer. She increasingly controlled the environment in which she presented her music. Special sets for listeners who were more than just fans to her, but family. A highlight was performing at Carnegie Hall in 1973. She recorded the "hit" Schoolhouse Rock songs, "Figure Eight" (album was Grammy Nominated)and "Unpack Your Adjectives" and in 1974, Daffodil Records released “Blossom Dearie Sings” featuring music written entirely by Blossom, it is now available on our “Blossom's Own Treasures" double-CD set as well as iTunes worldwide.
Blossom found herself the first woman to own a successful independent record label in the United States. Subsequent recordings were the favorites, “From the Meticulous to the Sublime,” “My New Celebrity Is You,”(title track written by and given to Blossom from the great Johnny Mercer) “Winchester In Apple Blossom Time” and also recent recordings like the vocal jazz favorites “Tweedledum and Tweedledee” which featured Mike Renzi as her co-arranger and keyboardist, and “Blossom’s Planet,” a Brazilian influenced recording featuring music from Blossom and Michel Legrand, as well as Sting, Ivan Lins and of course Jobim. Many have commented that her version of Jobim’s “Wave” is the definitive one. With special thanks to Cesar Camargo Mariano who arranged the strings. A perennial favorite among fans(and overhead in restaurants and stores) is “Christmas Spice So Very Nice”. The back catalog contains over a dozen albums and many unreleased gems. Blossom's garden will be blooming once again!
Sadly, Blossom Dearie gave her last performances in early 2007, when illness forced her into retirement. Her longtime, and acclaimed musicians Ray Kilday, Dave Silliman and Luis Peralta were with her to the end. She passed away, peacefully, at her Greenwich Village home in February of 2009. She is survived by her niece and nephew, Peggy and Wayne, who, not only coordinated Blossom's care at the end of her life, but are keeping Blossom's musical legacy alive through their ownership of Daffodil Records. As you can see remastering and reissuing of the complete Daffodil Records catalog of recordings is already underway...as they say, "Stay Tuned!"
This biography is not finished - we expand it every now and then - it continues to grow. Feel free to get in touch with memories and questions!