Blossom: A Lifetime of Music

Pictured above is the final Blossom Dearie Trio,
Dave Silliman on Drums and Ray Kilday on Bass.

Blossom Margrethe Dearie was born April 28, 1924 in East Durham, New York.  She was named Blossom after the pear blossoms her brothers picked and decorated their house with to celebrate her birth. By the age of two Blossom was able to pick up songs on the family piano. 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. Debussy's Afternoon of the Faun was a favorite. 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.

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, in between headlining acts at some 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. It was here that 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.  It was at this time that she also recorded the Billboard hit "Lullaby of Birdland" with the Blue Stars of France. 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 My Gentleman Friend.  Oscar Peterson's rhythm section rounded out Blossom's band including 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.

 

Exploding into the 60's, 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 icon, John Lennon; with a shared admiration of each other talents, they wrote songs for one another.

 

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.  In 1973 she preformed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She recorded songs for Schoolhouse Rock including: "Unpack Your Adjectives", "Mother Necessity", and "Figure Eight", whose album was nominated for a Grammy.

With the creation of Daffodil Records, Blossom was the first woman to own a successful independent record label in the United States. In 1974, Daffodil Records released Blossom Dearie Sings, featuring music written entirely by Blossom. Subsequent recordings include: From the Meticulous to the Sublime; My New Celebrity Is You, this title track written by and given to Blossom from the great Johnny Mercer; Winchester In Apple Blossom Time;  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. The back catalog contains over a dozen albums and many unreleased gems.  Blossom's garden will be blooming once again!

 

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 on February 7, 2009.  She is survived by her niece and nephew,  Peggy and Wayne, who are keeping Blossom's musical legacy alive through their ownership of Daffodil Records.

 

Remastering and reissuing of the complete Daffodil Records catalog of recordings is currently underway.. Stay Tuned!

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