Pianist transformed herself into jazz singer

Blossom Dearie, a classically trained pianist who transformed herself into a jazz singer with a unique baby-doll voice heard in New York and London cabarets for three decades, died of natural causes Feb. 7 in Manhattan. She was 82.

“She lived for her music, and she lived to perform her music. She had impeccable taste,” said her manager Donald Schaffer.

Born in East Durham, N.Y., Marguerite Blossom Dearie dropped her first name to bolster a musical career that began with early training in piano and moved to jazz vocals. By the mid-1940s, she was a member of the Blue Flames, associated with Woody Herman’s orchestra and with the Alvino Rey band.

Dearie began her solo career in postwar Paris. With an octet called the Blue Stars, she recorded a French version of the jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland.” She was briefly married to Belgian saxophonist Bobby Jaspar and later signed a six-album contract with jazz impresario Norman Granz, the owner of Verve Records. The New York Times called the resulting albums cult classics.

Dearie appeared regularly at London nightclubs in the 1960s. She founded her own label, Daffodil Records, in New York in 1974, writing the music to lyrics by Johnny Mercer and others. She gained national attention by appearing on NBC’s “Today” show during its early years.

Dearie liked to poke fun at composers she thought pretentious or overrated. A favorite target was Andrew Lloyd Webber, responsible for the music for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and other hit musicals.

Her last record was the 2003 single “It’s All Right to be Afraid,” dedicated to victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She last performed in 2006 at a cabaret in midtown Manhattan.

She is survived by an older brother.

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