No one could possibly match Blossom Dearie’s sly, wry style or her baby-with-a-blowtorch sensibility. But if tribute must be paid, Amy Cervini seems a wise choice. Cervini’s honeyed voice is laced with just enough arsenic to mirror the sweet yet piquant duality of Dearie’s delivery.
These interpretations of Dearie-favored tunes are, however, distinctly Cervini’s own. Where, for instance, Dearie’s “Once Upon a Summertime” suggested fleeting wisps of regret, weightless and ethereal, Cervini’s denser, darker take captures the lyric’s wistfulness with equal perceptivity. And while Dearie’s “Doodlin’ Song” was fluffy as cotton candy, Cervini makes hers playful yet sexy. Her “Hey John” (from which the album’s title is extracted) is more winking, her dawdling “Tea for Two” more sensual.
Though Cervini opts to sidestep the cunning furtiveness of “I’m Shadowing You” and acerbic bite of “My Attorney Bernie,” she ably captures the mischievous spirit of Cole Porter’s “The Physician,” and cleverly reinvents Bob Dorough’s “Figure 8” (performed by Dearie on Schoolhouse Rock) as a majestic madrigal. And, unlike Dearie, who tended to fly solo, Cervini surrounds herself across all 13 tracks with top-tier talent, including pianist Bruce Barth, drummer Matt Wilson, guitarist Jesse Lewis, bassist Matt Aronoff and two of the Cohen siblings, multireedist Anat (here on clarinet) and trumpeter Avishai.