Singer Amy Cervini Pays Homage to Hip Jazz Pixie Blossom Dearie with "Digging Me, Digging You"


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The album—to be released on January 31, 2012 by Anzic Records—presents Cervini's fresh take on vintage originals and standards associated with Dearie, backed by an all-star New York jazz combo

CD Release Celebrations: March 6 & 7, 7-9 PM—The 55 Bar, NYC

Featuring Amy Cervini—voice, Anat Cohen—clarinet, TBD—trumpet, Jesse Lewis—guitar, Matt Aronoff—bass, Matt Wilson—drums

Canadian Tour!

Featuring Amy Cervini with Adrean Farrugia—piano, Ross MacIntyre—bass & Ernesto Cervini—drums
  • March 16th—The Jazz Room, Waterloo, Ontario
  • March 20th—National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage, Ottawa, Ontario
  • March 25th—Hugh's Room, Toronto, Ontario
  • April 19th—The Cellar, Vancouver, BC
  • April 20th—Yardbird Suite, Edmonton, AB

Amy Cervini- whom The New York Times describes as “a thoughtful and broad-minded jazz singer" for her free-spirited, genre-blind approach—pays homage to a childhood idol with “Digging Me, Digging You": A Tribute to Blossom Dearie. To be released in January 2012 by Anzic Records, Cervini's third solo album features her backed by a band of all-star New York jazz players as she re-envisions the vintage art of “jazz pixie" Blossom Dearie via a contemporary sensibility. Time Out New York has praised Cervini's work for “tearing down boundaries between old and new jazz styles, rock, pop, country and more—a reminder of Duke Ellington's old axiom that there's just two kinds of music, good and bad."

Blossom Dearie (1924-2009) was a jazz singer beloved by the cognoscenti from New York to London to Paris and beyond. Miles Davis and Gil Evans were among her famous fans and friends in the '50s, to be joined by John Lennon in the '60s. Dearie said her key influences included Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the team of George Burns & Gracie Allen; that, wrote jazz vocal authority Will Friedwald, was “a statement that speaks volumes about the nature of her music and the importance of humor therein, particularly mischievous, impish humor." Dearie paired a small-yet-pure voice with an ever-swinging sense of rhythm, and she had a deft way of delivering a lyric. Friedwald described the storytelling in her singing as being like a striptease, “giving up secrets only slowly and reluctantly."

“Digging Me, Digging You"—the album title drawn from the lyrics to “Hey John," a song Dearie wrote after bonding with John Lennon on a TV chat show ("Hey, John, look at me digging you digging me")—is more than an homage to Dearie's vocal sensibility and repertoire; it's a tribute to the way she and other old-school artists made records. Cervini and her “family" of musicians—including pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Matt Aronoff, drummer Matt Wilson, clarinetist Anat Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen, among others—recorded mostly live in the studio with everyone together, without rehearsals and in a single eight-hour day. Producer Oded Lev-Ari made artful, sympathetic arrangements beforehand, though there was enough room in the music that Cervini often told the musicians to play what they felt. And in James Farber, they had an ace recording engineer who could handle it all on the fly.

“With this album," Cervini says, “I'm not paying tribute so much to Blossom Dearie as a singer and a pianist as I'm paying tribute to the choices she made as a singer and a pianist." The Toronto-bred, New York-based Cervini was told by people that she sounded like Blossom Dearie “before I had even heard her sing—and once I did, I recognized a lot of the way I felt about music and singing in her. She seemed like a kindred spirit."

Dearie was a pianist as well as a singer, and because Cervini is an instrumentalist herself— having studied piano and saxophone from Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music to the New England Conservatory—she felt a kinship there. And there was more: “She wasn't selling sex— she wasn't a bombshell. That was cool to me. She was hip enough to hang with Miles and Gil, so she was more like one of the cats. She had a little-girl voice, but there was no bullshit to her at all: She had this natural, melody-focused delivery, and one that really swung. There weren't any acrobatics, no melismas for days. She was just really musical and had that subtle wit you can hear both in her choice of songs and the way she conveys the lyrics. And she did `Tea for Two' as a ballad—she was quirky. I like to compare her to someone like Nellie McKay today. In fact, when I do my Blossom sets, I include Nellie's `I Want to Be Married,' because it fits so well."

“Digging Me, Digging You" includes the hip musical crush of Dearie's Lennon-inspired “Hey, John," as well as “Everything I Got Belongs to You," a Rodgers & Hart number Friedwald describes as “a perfect juxtaposition of wit and swing" -and that Cervini points out is “a song that masquerades as something super-sweet but is actually kind of dark." The Dearie-penned “I Like You, You're Nice" is an example of the singer as creator of lovely, heart-tugging melody, just as it underscores the music's ideal fit for Cervini's acute harmonic sense. There is “Once Upon a Summertime"—a song that Dearie recorded as the title track to her 1959 Verve album, probably inspiring her pals Miles & Gil to make their own version a few years later. Cervini says, “The lyrics and the tune just paint a gorgeous picture together." As for “Tea for Two," the song “was cut in one take," Cervini points out, “at half-speed no less. It becomes something different." Then there is “Figure 8," the Bob Dorough song that Dearie sang for a new generation of listeners on “Schoolhouse Rock." Cervini says, “We changed the vibe totally on that one, with Oded arranging it for an ensemble of cellos. Oded is my husband, but I have to say, it's a beautiful thing."

On “Digging Me, Digging You," “there is something for the jazz purist, for a cabaret aficionado, for people who like things a little more left of center," Cervini says. “We're not advancing the cause of jazz or anything with this record—it's meant to entertain, something with a fun energy that help gives your day a lift. That's what Blossom has always done for me."

This story appears courtesy of Jason Byrne, Red Cat Publicity.
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