Blossom Dearie

Soubrette: Sings Broadway Hit Songs

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To hear Blossom Dearie's early records for Verve is to think that she would excel singing any song in any circumstance; to hear Soubrette: Sings Broadway Hit Songs is to realize that even she has limitations. Dearie, cast as the soubrette ("the saucy-serving-maid" or "the heroine's confidante," from the liner notes), is certainly a perfect fit for the role, which draws upon her skill at delivering witty material with a wink and a smile. This record fails nevertheless for two reasons -- it's her first record with full orchestral arrangements, and she doesn't impress when she's singing a comic song straight (comparatively speaking), which she does here. The arrangements of Russ Garcia are inventive but burdensome, and overly close for a Blossom Dearie date; instead of following every one of her humorous lines with its auditory equivalent (usually brass or vibraphone), far better to let the soubrette speak for herself. And Dearie herself missteps when singing a few of these ("Guys and Dolls" and "Life Upon the Wicked Stage") with no trace of her jazz smarts and unfailing interpretive sense. A few songs allow her to float the punch lines without undue intrusion, such as "To Keep My Love Alive" (in which a female serial killer explains her actions) and the eccentric, playful state-naming "Rhode Island Is Famous for You."

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