‘She floored me. I was in shock’: Blossom Dearie, the jazz singer with the diminutive voice and vast talent

A new box set explores how the American singer – now beloved of Kylie and more – was embraced by swinging London. Those who knew her recall a star who gently trod her own path

With a name akin to a character from Roald Dahl’s stories and an equally naive singing voice some labelled as childish, Blossom Dearie hardly exuded star quality. “She was definitely not an entertainer,” admits Arlene Corwin, a friend and jazz singing contemporary of Dearie’s in mid-century nightclubs. “But her piano was great, her songs so beautifully polished and jazzy. And, of course, that little voice – pitch perfect, modest, unembellished.”

Now, 14 years after her death aged 84, the maverick New Yorker’s music is being re-evaluated: Kylie Minogue and Feist are self-professed fans, R&B star Ravyn Lenae has namechecked her, Jack White’s label is reissuing her work, Fugees and De La Soul have sampled her and Dearie songs can be heard everywhere from Call the Midwife to Starbucks playlists. “It was the whole combination,” says mod icon Georgie Fame of his one-time friend and mentor. “The unique sound of her voice, her way of playing and accompanying herself, her choice of unusual material. It’s the presentation of all those things.”

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