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Let’s be clear about one thing from the start. This is more of a pop album than a jazz album, and anyone who buys My Gentleman Friend for the presence of any of the other musicians involved – especially Kenny Burrell – will probably be disappointed. Those who have encountered Blossom Dearie on any of her other Verve releases will be wiser, for she has always been more of an elegant cabaret singer whose delicate voice and modest piano playing lifts her just slightly above a mere interpreter of tunes. Despite the fact that her renditions of song like “You Fascinate Me So” are teeming with sweetness, they have about as much substance and weight as a soap bubble and are perhaps best experienced as background music for a romantic dinner rather than as careful listening.
However, Dearie would probably be satisfied with this assessment, content to deliver pleasant pop to the masses. It a shame, though, that Burrell and Bobby Jaspar (who guests on two tracks) aren’t given more to do than add a few indifferent solos. While Dearie has turned in excellent performances before – her album of Comden and Green is a subdued classic and features a more eager Burrell – she makes some odd choices on this 1959 record, as if she’s running out of good songs to interpret. The obligatory French tunes are fairly pleasant, but forgettable and only “Someone To Watch Over Me” has a depth that suggests Dearie has a real knack for putting an intimate spin on a song we have all heard before.
Perhaps Dearie’s real legacy will always be paving the way for sultry songbirds like Diana Krall, and fans of that particular style will probably find My Gentleman Friend appealing. Others will wish a meal was served before dessert.
I love jazz because it is a pure American music and can be expressed in different ways depending upon the artist.
I was first exposed to jazz while as a teenager I listened to Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong, on a jazz
radio station in New York City.