Few, if any, contemporary jazz singers can match the recording prolificacy of Nicki Parrott: close to 30 albums (many for Japan’s Venus label) in less than 15 years, including tributes to mentor Les Paul, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, the Carpenters and, just released overseas, Burt Bacharach. Here the indefatigable Australian salutes Blossom Dearie, a task more difficult than it may seem.
Anyone who’s heard even a single Dearie track knows the unforgettable voice: that sweet, childlike mew. But underlying that seemingly innocent purr, and essential to the definition of her genius, was a slyness that could reveal itself as playful, coy, smirking or sardonic.
Parrott, also a skilled bassist, has a fuller, richer and more sanguine sound than Dearie, but she ably echoes her fetchingly girlish side. That’s all that’s needed for such winsome selections as “I Wish You Love” and “Inside a Silent Tear,” and dreamier fare like “It Amazes Me” and “I Walk a Little Faster.” Others, though consistently charming (particularly “Peel Me a Grape,” Parrott alone with cornetist Warren Vaché), fall short—missing that vital substrata.
“Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” for example, bounces brightly but without the flippantly comic edge. Ditto the absent cynicism on “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You.” And, modernizing the lyrics to “I’m Hip,” Parrott undermines the Dave Frishberg/Bob Dorough tune’s intent: to reveal how intrinsically un-hip the narrator is. Parrott includes one original, the paean “Dear Blossom”—winningly tender, yet again failing to capture Dearie’s full essence.