Blossom Dearie was a remarkable American jazz vocalist, pianist and composer from the bebop era known for her unique voice, definitive arranging style and continent spanning career. From recordings and radio to Calvin Klein ads, the Gilmore Girls television show, and many other film and TV soundtracks, her career swung into the 21st Century. Christina Aguilera and Carly Rae Jepsen are fans, and her friend Tony Bennett honored her as a jazz influence. Elton John recently named the piano he uses in his Las Vegas shows after Blossom.
Blossom Dearie was born in the Catskill Mountains of New York State and was given her name by three proud brothers who brought pear blossoms into the house upon her arrival. One of her earliest memories was climbing onto her mother’s lap in front of the family piano and picking out tunes by ear. She started classical piano lessons at five, and at ten she moved to live with her brother in Washington, DC to continue training. It was expected she would enter the Peabody Conservatory. As with most of Blossom’s life, “She had other plans!” Blossom returned to the Catskills and switched to jazz where she developed a style similar to her favorite jazz pianist Art Tatum. She was a part of a band in high school, and after, wanting to see the world, she headed to New York City.
Once in New York she became part of the vocal scene as a member of Alvino Rey’s Blue Reys and Woody Herman’s Blue Flames. She began to play as a solo artist as a headliner and accompanist to other singers like Annie Ross at New York clubs.
Blossom was there for the Birth of the Cool hanging in Gil Evans apartment with Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. 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. Miles Davis once remarked, “She was the only white woman who ever had soul.”
Eddie and Nicole Barclay heard Blossom in New York and encouraged her to come to Paris to record…and she began to see the world. Her first solo album was released on the Barclay label and she was a popular attraction in the Mars Club and the Left Bank. It was in Paris that she met jazz impresario and Verve Records founder Norman Granz. He wanted to record her when she returned back to the States. A brief stint as the founder and arranger of the Blue Stars of France yielded a Billboard charting single, Lullaby of Birdland, sung in French. When other members of the group could not tour America she returned alone and took Norman Granz up on his offer. In that group she first worked with long-time friend Bob Dorough. She met Michel Legrand, whose song, “"La Valse des Lilas” she introduced to Johnny Mercer whose English lyrics turned it into “Once Upon A Summertime.”