Blossom Dearie on NPR’s “Piano Jazz” (1985)

The aptly named singer and pianist Blossom Dearie had a unique, childlike voice that, along with truly swinging piano work, could deliver scathing wit wrapped in a sweet package.

A consummate performer, Dearie eschewed jazz improvisation. And while her harmonies were inspired by Frank Sinatra, her pixie-like voice was counterbalanced by the muscular rhythms she pounded out in the manner of Count Basie and Oscar Peterson.

Dearie avoided working in cabarets and nightclubs for much of her career; her delicate voice was no match for the smoky atmosphere of such venues. However, she was a fixture at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, where she performed regularly starting in 1983.

Dearie opened this session of Piano Jazz with a tune written specifically for her by Johnny Mercer: "My New Celebrity Is You." In her nudge-and-wink vocal performance, she drops names from Modigliani and Montovani to Dean Martin and Mia Farrow. Dearie invites host Marian McPartland to play along; afterwards, McPartland remarks, "That was kind of a shame that I played on that at all — the thing is so perfect without me pussyfooting along." To which the ever-charming Dearie replies, "I thought it was very tasty what you played."