VA - The Adorable Blossom Dearie/The Pefect Sound: Jazz [él records/ Cherry Red - 2019]Here we have a three-CD box set bringing together material from two easy-listening/ light jazz artists of the ’50s & 60’s- there’s pianist, vocalist and cool jazz Icon Blossom Dearie. And Jazz flautist Bobby Jasper- with collaborations between the pair, and others names like Bill Evans, Milt Jackson, and Donald Byrd
This release appears on Cherry Red sub-label él Records- and is presented in flipside box, with each of the CD’s having its own card slip sleeve, and a twenty-page booklet- taking in a four-page write-up about both artists, sleeve artwork, and track listing. And it’s fair to say that the packaging/ tilting of the box is somewhat misleading- as it suggests the material here is mostly focusing towards Ms Dearie, but in reality it’s really a blend of Jasper & Dearie material- with one & half, nearing two discs focusing in on Jasper work, and only one full disc (which is excellent) focusing in on Dearie’s fairly distinctive songcraft/ vocalising that nicely flits between playful, lightly sexy, and emotional. I guess it’s down to Dearie’s appeal above & beyond Jasper- so do take this in mind if you're purchasing the box set, expecting an all-out Dearie compilation- as it’s not.
Anyway, enough complaining lets get into the artists/ contents of the box- Bobby Jaspar was born in 1926 in Liège, Belgium- with his years of activity between 1954 & 1963. He played both Flute & Tenor Sax, and was known for his contributions to both the cool Jazz & Hard bop scenes. In his lifetime he collaborated with Herbie Mann- releasing two respected double flute albums Flute Flight & Flute Soufflé in 1957 on Prestige. As well as albums with the likes of Chet Baker, bebop legend J. J. Johnson, and others.
Blossom Dearie was born in East Durham New York in 1924- with her years of activity been between 1952 & 2006. In her lifetime she collaborated with the likes of Miles Davis, Johnny Mercer Jack Segal, Johnny Mandel, Duncan Lamont, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg and Jay Berliner. Going onto stand as one of the more distinctive & instant recognisable vocalists in Jazz.
The first disc takes in twenty-nine tracks and playtime of seventy-eight minutes. The disc opens with an EP from 1956- this sees Jasper on Flute, Dearie on Piano, with Benoit Quersin on Bass & Christian Garrors on drums- this is just a very mellow, smooth & melodic collection of four tracks, which are all standards played in a lose & lulling manner- it’s ok, but nothing to write home about. The next six tracks are from 1955 album Blossom Dearie Plays April in Paris- this sees Dearie on piano, been joined by Herman Garst on bass & Bernard Planchenault on drums- here we get more mellow/ light jazz standards, with Dearie's mainly jaunting & richly flow playing to the fore- I found these tracks a bit more varied & expressive than the Jasper EP tracks- though it was still a little by the numbers. The next ten tracks are taken up by The Blue Stars Of France’s Sing Lullaby Of Birdland and other famous Hits- this is much more enjoyable & distinctive, with Dearie singing alto vocals with a collection of soprano & tenor singers-all for a collection of French language tracks filled bright, buoyant & vibrate easy listening vibes- this really is a highlight of the first disc, though you can’t really pick Dearie out of the other players. The remaining five tracks on the disc take in four tracks from 1956 The Blue Stars EP, and one from 1957’s Pardon My English- these are once again are examples vocal layered easy listening- with dips into light jazz, swing, easy 50’s euro pop.
Disc two mainly features Dearie on lead vocals, taking in twenty-eight tracks & eighty minutes of playtime. The disc opens with fourteen tracks( plus three extra tracks from the CD reissue) from the self-titled Blossom Dearie- which appeared in 1957- this is a stone cold classic blend of classy 50’s vocal jazz & sassy cool jazz with Dearie on lead vocals & piano, with supporting roles Herb Ellis Guitar, Ray Brown bass, and Jo Jones drums. Dearie's voice has a lightly smoked- slightly sassy quality, which works well for both more-upbeat tracks, as well as the slow/ more mellow moments. The way she deliveries the songs lyrics move from playful & at times innuendo-filled, onto passioned & felt, through to cool & sassy. Really all of the tracks are this first part of the disc are great. The remaining eleven tracks move from a selection of stand-alone Dearie vocal & swinging piano-centred moments, through to more blended male & female easy listening fare- with Dearie just been one of the players.
The third & final disc takes in nineteen tracks, eighty minutes of playtime- and is basically all Jaspar focused material. Of the three-disc this was the least interesting to me, as it was often fairly predictable & clichéd light jazz/ easy listening with a jazz focus- sure Jaspar was clearly a good, often melodic, emotive & talented flute player- but it just felt all a bit too safe, twee, and ultimately bland & lift music like for me.
In conclusion, this three-disc set is very much a odds & ends collection and not the rounded Dearie boxset it tries to sell it’s self ad- the second disc is certainly worth picking this up alone, with the first disc having its moments, and the third frankly boring me. I’d say just know what you're getting into from the onset, then hopefully you won’t feel let down…but there’s no doubt that every easy listening/light jazz collection needs some Blossom Dearie in it.Roger Batty