Blossom, Dearie.

It was spring when I moved to New York City. As leaves unfurled on the trees and the city began to bloom, I also felt reborn. Almost every night found me working long shifts as a waitress in an attempt to rebuild my badly bruised finances, leaving no time for any musical pursuits. I was broke and perpetually exhausted, but I remained optimistic. After all, I was in New York, the city that never sleeps. On any given night, I could take in a Broadway show, hear live jazz, attend a gallery opening, or eat at a fabulous restaurant. Well, actually, I couldn’t really do any of those things.

Like most 20-something aspiring artists in New York City, I rarely had a night off and could scarcely afford my groceries, let alone nights out on the town. But I did have the good sense, on two or three occasions, to whip out my weary, overworked credit card and haul my weary, overworked ass over to Danny’s Skylight Room (a dingy, unassuming nightclub just off Times Square) to hear Blossom Dearie.

There, in Danny’s dark back room, Blossom cast a spell over a small, devoted audience. I sipped a watery Manhattan on the rocks as Blossom played piano with her trademark delicacy and finesse. Her crystalline voice rang sweet and true throughout her set. Afterward, she signed my copy of her self-titled 1957 Verve album and even posed for a picture. As I walked out of Danny’s Skylight Room into the balmy spring evening, all the springtime cliches rang true: I was light as a feather, daft as a daisy, a lark on the wing.

More than a few springs have passed since I moved to New York. And I suppose I’ve grown into my life here in New York City. These days, I’m waitressing less and singing more; I’m happy to say that affording groceries isn’t quite the challenge it used to be. But, unbelievably, sometimes I miss my first spring here in the Big Apple, when every day was ripe with possibility. I also miss Blossom Dearie, who died last year, and her enchanting performances at Danny’s Skylight Room (which is also gone, by the way).

This unusually cold January finds me holed up, hermit-like, at home. Everything seems to be stalled, including my optimism, and spring feels very, very far away. I sit in my Brooklyn living room and look at the gray sky, gray pavement, gray buildings, gray cars. I put on a Blossom Dearie record. Her voice, delicate and knowing, flirtatious and ironic, subtle and swinging, tells me that spring is on its way.

In just a few months, the first tentative, yet persistent, shoots of green will begin to assert themselves once again in Central Park. And if the daffodils have the courage to blossom in this rough-and-tumble metropolis year after year, then surely we can, too.

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13 thoughts on “Blossom, Dearie.

  1. Thank you Hil! This made me nostalgic for my first summer in NYC, and all that it brought to my life. What some folks don’t understand or even care to realize about this concrete bubble we live in, is that it is actually a living thing. It has such an amazing capacity and a resiliency unlike anything I’ve ever known.
    This blog is just a winner! More more more!

    • Thanks, Jen! I, too, often reflect on how dynamic our city is. Ever-growing, ever-changing, the city really does have a pulse. Living with New York, as opposed to in New York, makes me feel like I’m part of something sort of immortal. I suppose even New York will end someday…but I know it’ll be long, long after I’ve gone, and that makes me feel good. xo

  2. Thoughtful post – nice writing! The energy is definitely there in NYC. I lived in B-lyn last summer, presenting a reading of a new musical, and really enjoyed it.

    Blossom Dearie’s a great one… have you ever listened to Lee Wiley?
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/lee-wiley/id1195657
    This is a great compilation: “Hot House Rose,” from Topaz:
    http://www.shazam.com/music/web/album?id=34115

    Also thoroughly enjoyed your post about singing w/eyes closed, as I also sing… And fight off introversion, often. Great clip of Tony Bennett — I watched the whole thing. Good luck to you… I’ll try to catch a show when I’m in the city.
    (BTW, I discovered your website via Raymond Sage – we both teach at PSU.)

    Stacy
    stacy@stacyglen.com

    • Hi Stacy-
      Thank you so much for reading and leaving me such wonderful feedback! I am familiar with Lee Wiley, but haven’t listened to her in a while, so your reminder is timely! I’ll definitely check her out some more. And I love that we share the Raymond connection! We used to sing together and I had the great good fortune of hearing him present a faculty recital at PSU. He was so wonderful. Hope to meet you in person sometime! Until then, thanks again for reading, and happy singing to you!

      • L.W.’s a fine singer, but I’m probably more of a fan of the songwriting on her discs… The song “Hot House Rose” is really a classic, lesser-known Cole Porter tune. And she does a great version of “Sweet and Low Down,” Gershwins, great lyric… But she’s a totally swinging vocalist, and recorded w/some great combos.
        I should qualify by saying that I’m not close w/Raymond S., but have heard him sing a few times and enjoyed it. Hey, when a good jazz singer drops into a town the size of State College, PA, it’s good news for everyone.
        Cheers!
        Stacy

  3. You came up on my stats… What a lovely piece you wrote! I thought, and then I read a little more–very nice–and then found your other sites. I think sometime I’ll have to hear you sing. Thanks for looking, sharing your dream, and leading me a little into your world.

  4. Hilary, you should be put on notice that I’m getting a little addicted to your blog. I thought I was going through withdrawal in late December! Please continue writing! Your thoughts are really compelling…

    I don’t know if I ever told you but I studied for 8 years with Mike Longo. I look forward to hearing the big band live sometime.

    Say hi to Celia for me!

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