Recorded May 21 and 22, 1959 at the Nola Recording Studio, New York City.
The most expressive of jazz vocalists, Blossom Dearie's first three records for Verve - all masterpieces - displayed an artist with an uncommon ability to transfer a well-worn standard into a new song, usually informed by her light touch with piano and voice as well as her delightful coquette persona. My Gentleman Friend, her final full-length for the label, suffers only in comparison to her previous work; with fewer all-time standards available from her performing repertoire, Dearie was forced to resort to a few French titles and many middle-rank or then-current standards. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that the song with the most compositional weight - George and Ira Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" - is the highlight. Dearie gracefully tiptoes through the classic, her reading rosy and meditative. Another Gershwin tune, "Little Jazz Bird," leads off the record with Dearie affecting her usual blend of warmth and insouciance. Aside from those two, the rest of the material is Blossom by numbers: simply average, forgettable songs given solid readings. The backing very nearly makes up for the lack of great compositions - Dearie leads a quartet comprising her piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums.
All Music Guide
Let's be clear about one thing from the start. This is more of a pop album than a jazz album, and anyone who buys My Gentleman Friend for the presence of any of the other musicians involved - especially Kenny Burrell - will probably be disappointed. Those who have encountered Blossom Dearie on any of her other Verve releases will be wiser, for she has always been more of an elegant cabaret singer whose delicate voice and modest piano playing lifts her just slightly above a mere interpreter of tunes. Despite the fact that her renditions of song like "You Fascinate Me So" are teeming with sweetness, they have about as much substance and weight as a soap bubble and are perhaps best experienced as background music for a romantic dinner rather than as careful listening.
However, Dearie would probably be satisfied with this assessment, content to deliver pleasant pop to the masses. It a shame, though, that Burrell and Bobby Jaspar (who guests on two tracks) aren't given more to do than add a few indifferent solos. While Dearie has turned in excellent performances before - her album of Comden and Green is a subdued classic and features a more eager Burrell - she makes some odd choices on this 1959 record, as if she's running out of good songs to interpret. The obligatory French tunes are fairly pleasant, but forgettable and only "Someone To Watch Over Me" has a depth that suggests Dearie has a real knack for putting an intimate spin on a song we have all heard before.
Perhaps Dearie's real legacy will always be paving the way for sultry songbirds like Diana Krall, and fans of that particular style will probably find My Gentleman Friend appealing. Others will wish a meal was served before dessert.