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Director of the Louis Armstrong House

Michael Cogswell heads the Louis Armstrong House & Archives. The archive contains 5,000 photographs, 350 pages of autobiographical manuscripts, 270 sets of manuscripts band parts and 650 homemade tape recordings. We'll hear excerpts from the tapes. Cogswell has just opened a museum and educational center at the Louis Armstrong House in Queens, where Louis and his wife Lucille lived for almost 30 years. Cogswell's new book is Louis Armstrong: The Offstage Story of Satchmo.


Other segments from the episode on November 28, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 28, 2003: Interview with Michael Cogswell; Interview with Blossom Dearie; Review of Blossom Dearie's 1959 album, "My Gentleman Friend."


DATE November 28, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

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Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
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Review: Reissue of Blossom Dearie's 1959 album "My Gentleman

Blossom Dearie sings and plays piano in New York's supper clubs, performing
many of her own songs. Early in her career in the 1950s, she was known mostly
as an interpreter of other folks' tunes. A new reissue of a 1959 recording
has just been released. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says few singers
interpret any better.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BLOSSOM DEARIE: (Singing) It's I don't know; it's what you call. Its
words escape me, oh it's hang it all. It's the kiss that defies every
dictionary. Tell you this, though, whatever it is, it's very. So, darling,
say it's understood that when you kiss this way it's knock on wood. It's do
it again, it's the heck with it anyhow. It's the cat's meow and it's too good
to talk about now.


Blossom Dearie and guitarist Kenny Burrell, 1959. That ode to inarticulate
love" is by composer Cy Coleman and lyricist Carolyn Leigh. Blossom Dearie
always had a good nose for witty and neglected material, and she pays it
proper respect. When she sings, she gets the melody right, and every word is
carefully articulated, with no dramatics. She also conveys light and springy
jazz rhythm, aided here by bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen. This is
another Coleman and Leigh song, "You Fascinate Me So."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. DEARIE: (Singing) I have a feeling that beneath the little halo on your
noble head there lies a thought or two the devil might be interested to know.
You're like the finish of a novel that I'll finally have to take to bed. You
fascinate me so. I feel like...

WHITEHEAD: Miles Davis liked Blossom Dearie enough to have her play between
his sets at the Village Vanguard around the time she recorded the album, "My
Gentleman Friend," back out on Verve. Like Miles, she tends toward lyricism
and understatement, qualities which amply compensate for any technical limits.
Dearie has the tiniest, little girliest voice of any great jazz singer, making
her seem both vulnerable and wise. As pianist, she's her perfect accompanist,
staying out of her own way. You can hear that in a forgotten tune the
Gershwins wrote in 1924 about a songbird that got turned on to the new music
and flew home to tell the flock.

(Soundbite of "Little Jazz Bird")

Ms. DEARIE: (Singing) Called all the other birds and in these words started
gurgling then and there. I'm a little jazz bird, and I'm telling you to be
one, too. For a little jazz bird is in heaven when it's singing blues. I say
it with regret, but you're out of date. You ain't heard nothin' yet till you
syncopate. When...

WHITEHEAD: "Little Jazz Bird" by George and Ira Gershwin. Blossom Dearie
also takes a familiar Gershwin song and makes it sound new by including the
long and rarely heard introductory verse. That verse is in two sections,
almost a song in itself. She keeps you in suspense waiting for the main
melody to show up.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. DEARIE: (Singing) There's a saying old, says that love is blind. Still
we're often told, `Seek and ye shall find.' So I'm going to seek a certain
lad I've had in mind. Looking everywhere, haven't found him yet. He's the
big affair I cannot forget. Only man I ever think of with regret. I'd like
to add his initial to my monogram. Tell me where is the shepherd for this
lost lamb? There's somebody I'm longing to see. I hope that he turns out to
be someone to watch over me.

WHITEHEAD: A few years earlier, Blossom Dearie had been living in Paris where
she'd married Belgian saxophonist Bobby Jaspar, who plays good flute on a few
tunes from "My Gentleman Friend." She also does three songs in French,
including Charles Trenet's immortal "Boum," which she sings with typically
impeccable diction. The French ditties add to her sophisticated air and make
her seem even more like she dropped in from some land where everyone speaks by
singing. Her signature style perfectly suits the voice she has to work with
and the records she made in the late '50s are as cool as cool jazz gets.

(Soundbite of "Boum")

Ms. DEARIE: (Singing in French)

BOGAEV: Kevin Whitehead writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, Absolute Sound and
Downbeat. He reviewed "My Gentleman Friend," the reissue of Blossom Dearie's
1959 album.

For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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