When Blossom Dearie died at 82 over the weekend, we lost a brilliant musician whose subtle artistry and private nature conspired to limit her popularity. There was nothing about her “teacup voice,” as Whitney Balliett described it, or her sophisticated harmonic sense at the piano that could have led to mass adoration. Nonetheless, for decades she was idolized by a substantial base of listeners charmed by her singing and of musicians who admired her integration of vocal performance with self-accompaniment. No singer has been better at playing for herself.
Blossom’s piano playing was probably influenced a lot by Ellis Larkins. She voiced like he did, and had that same delicate touch. Bill Evans’ early playing reflected a lot of Lennie Tristano… I’m sure he must have heard Blossom when she was around the Village, but I think he worked his ideas out pretty much by himself.