Blossom Dearie – the dedicatee of this wonderful album – had a voice like no other vocalist in popular music. Both in appearance and in the manner of her voice she resembles a sort of proverbial ingénue – not “unsophisticated”, in the sense that is described in lexicons, but beyond “endearing” as the French, in their impossibly poetic manner, describe as: “qui laisse voir librement et naïvement ses sentiments; une pauvre fille ingénu et sans malice.”
As tributes go there are not many women who have stepped up to perform one better than Sharon Sable, who has both the voice of girlish timbre, the style of airy shaping of melodic contours laced with admirably restrained embellishments and affectionate communication of the poetry ensconced in the songs. This refers to the songs associated with Miss Dearie, as well as songs that may be attributed to her as well of numerous others. Once Upon a Summertime – The Music of Blossom Dearie is also ethereally an appropriate a title for an album given that someone like Miss Dearie also come once in a lifetime.
In songs made in the intimacy of the duet – in this case with an exquisite interpreter of song in the form of pianist Joe Holt – make everything so much more magical. Mt Holt is exemplary on his own. Indeed, there are very few like him [Steve Kuhn, who has glorified recordings with the great Sheila Jordan is another.] However, speaking of Mr Holt: his has a silken feel for melody and notes magically roll off the keyboard, caressed by his fingers. His harmonic intellect is flawless and, as a result, his choice of chords [and the harmonic] inventions and inversions that he employs will leave you breathless – if Miss Sable has not yet done so already. Mr Holt’s sense of time makes this music almost unspeakably rhythmically beautiful to behold.
You cannot really go wrong with repertoire when producing an album like this one. But you may have too much of ‘a good thing’, if it [a given song] goes on for far too long. However, both Miss Sable and Mr Holt are acutely aware of this and their brevity when exploring each song indicates that both know when to start and when to usher in the perfect dénouement for a song. Moreover, they intersperse dallying, balladic material with slightly saucy, but ever-so-endearing narratives.
On several songs – where the duo becomes a trio – the inimitable contrabassist Amy Shook graces the studio soundstage with her majestic presence. Miss Shook brings uncommon gravitas and elegance to songs such as the eloquently Down with Love and L’etang [on Miss Shook shows off her magnificent con arco technique], the puckish Boum, and the magical Tea for Two. Any one of those charts might easily qualify as the apogee of the album – in no small part because the contrabassist adds much to what Miss Sable and Mr Holt already bring to it.
This album is one for the ages – not only as a Blossom Dearie tribute but as an album by a truly miraculous vocal artist, made of glorious warmth and intimacy.
Music – 1: Little Jazz Bird; 2: You Fascinate Me So; 3: Down with Love; 4: Once Upon a Summertime; 5: L’etang; 6: They Say It’s Spring; 7: Surrey with the Fringe on Top; 8: Inside a Silent Tear; 9: Gentleman Friend; 10: Boum; 11: Tea for Two; 12: I Like You, You’re Nice.
Musicians – Sharon Sable: voice; Joe Holt: piano; Amy Shook: contrabass.
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 43:36