Filled with humour and wit, Amy Cervini’s Digging Me, Digging You is a loving but never hokey homage to Blossom Dearie.
Dearie (1924-2009) was one of those jazz singers adored by people “in the know.” She counted Miles Davis, Gil Evans and even John Lennon among her famous fans and amassed quite a career for herself with her playful renditions of classic songs and sprightly originals.
Cervini, a Canadian expat who is no slouch in the humour department herself, takes to these Dearie tunes with a vibrant sense of rhythm and step to go with the quick-fire funniness. The lyrics, comprised of shrewd turns of phrase and beautifully cadenced channels, pop and sizzle under Cervini’s understanding. She is an articulate, smooth vocalist.
Along with Cervini’s vocals, the record features the services of pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Matt Aronoff, drummer Matt Wilson, guitarist Jesse Lewis, clarinetist Anat Cohen, saxophonist Jeremy Udden, baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, and trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton plays on three tracks.
“Hey John,” a track Dearie wrote after bonding with Lennon during a chat show on television, lends the record its title and provides tremendous insight into the singer’s mindset. Cervini takes the lyrics and delivers them in an smartly contemporary fashion, nailing the playful rhythm with beautiful enunciation.
The first piece, “Everything I’ve Got,” is a rascally little number taken from Rodgers and Hart. “I’ve a powerful anaesthesia in my fist and the perfect wrist to give your neck a twist,” sings Cervini with a smirk. Ouch!
Things head in another direction entirely with “Figure Eight,” a piece Dearie initially sang for “Schoolhouse Rock.” Here, Cervini sings with a cello ensemble. The Oded Lev-Ari arrangement renovates the number into something melancholy, kind of like a spooky Sesame Street routine.
More than a tribute to Blossom Dearie, Digging Me, Digging You is a tribute to a style of music where a well-placed grin and a sassy lyric still matters. The cunningly cheerful spirit and dogged wittiness makes this a very, very fun recording indeed.