A 79-Year-Old Chanteuse Ventures Out of Habitat, Beckons Elderly Audience


No one should ever be forced to go on after a seven-year-old tap dancer, but since when have rules applied to Blossom Dearie? Who else pushing 80 could get away with singing in the voice of an unusually worldly little girl? And who else could have transformed the Tribeca Performing Arts Center into an intimate cabaret? Unfortunately, not Dave Frishberg, who shared the bill with Dearie and the Young Hoofers at last month’s installment of “Highlights in Jazz.” Frishberg’s lyrics depend so much on wordplay that he’s better off when he can see his audience—or the enemy, as he might have been justified in putting it after the cranky reception this elderly audience gave his dour “My Country Used to Be.” Dearie simply took her seat at the piano, opened with Cole Porter’s “Give Him the Ooh-La-La,” and demonstrated her knack for beckoning an audience into her spotlight. By the time she delivered a wistful “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” (a Broadway clip-clip she did as much as Miles Davis to redeem), it was as if she and the audience were dreaming together. She also did “I’m Hip” and “My Attorney Bernie,” two Frishberg numbers she popularized and that he gallantly abjured. She’s hip, all right, and like Frishberg when he’s on his game, she proves it has nothing to do with being young or knowing what’s hot—if you’re hip, you’re hip for life, and you can’t be unless you’re hip to Blossom Dearie. Try Soubrette (Verve), a recent reissue from 1960. If you can get past Russ Garcia’s twee-bop arrangements, you’ll be a fan after hearing her simultaneously wide-eyed and saucy rendition of Schwartz and Dietz’s “Rhode Island Is Famous for You.”

Blossom Dearie performs at Danny’s Skylight Room Saturdays and Sundays through May 29.