I revisited Blossom Dearie’s video and audio recordings to prepare but it only set me up to be stunned by Roberta Donnay’s tributes. Roberta is a marvel and somewhere Blossom Dearie is smiling. Roberta herself says that she “grew up listening to Jazz in the 1960s but didn't discover Blossom Dearie until many years later when I was lucky enough to hear her perform live. Her sweet voice and witty song interpretations enchanted and inspired me to delve deeper into her recordings and repertoire.”
With Roberta on vocals are Mike Greensill on piano, Ruth Davies on bass, Mark Lee on drums, José Neto on guitar and guest appearances by David Sturdevant on harmonica, and MB Gordy on percussion. This is a fun band with all the talent needed for this incredible album, an album that is brilliant on its own even without its tribute to Blossom.
the songs range from compositions by Billie Holiday to Cole Porter to the Gershwins to Jule Styne to Johnny Mandel and even one by Blossom Dearie herself. The songs are indeed from the Great American Songbook and Roberta simply takes ownership of them all.
She opens the album with Roberta’s Blues by Billie Holiday and adapted by Blossom Dearie. The “girlish” delivery of the song belies the naughty and sassy mood and lyrics of the song. All this is a magnificent setup for the songs that are to come.
I thought I was done with hearing anymore versions of Peel Me a Grape but Roberta turned me around on that, too. For one thing, I was completely taken with Greensill’s arrangement and piano work on the Dave Frishberg standard. But, Good Lord, Roberta just nails this song.
Ruth Davies’ bass gives a cool intro to Cole Porter’s Just One of Those Things. Then comes Roberta and it makes you want to just pop. It is the same feeling with each song from Someone to Watch Over Me to The Party’s Over to You Fascinate Me So to each and every one of the 16 songs on the album. It was probably Johnny Mandel’s I Wish You Love that hits the hardest. The band is deliciously understated which is completely in step with Roberta’s vocals.
The beauty of Blossom-ing! by Roberta Donnay is that the songs are so well chosen and nothing misses. The songs are emotional and sultry, witty and warm, and everything you could wish to hear in a vocal Jazz album. This is a work of extraordinary charm and beauty.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl