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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | OWL

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Verve

Though she eventually came to be known as a "singer's singer," Helen Merrill's 1954 debut is an unmitigated success of mainstream jazz. Besides introducing the uniquely talented young singer, the date also featured small-group arrangements by Quincy Jones and marks the introduction of another future star, trumpeter Clifford Brown. Formidable as his playing is, Brown never overshadows Merrill. She is fully up to the challenge on all fronts and enthusiastically tackles uptempo numbers such as "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and "Falling in Love with Love" with aplomb. A winning stylistic combination of cool jazz and hard bop, Merrill particularly excels on Mel Tormé's "Born to Be Blue," making the sophisticated tune her own as she revels in Tormé's down-and-out lyric. ~ Richard Mortifoglio
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Jazz - Released February 16, 1985 | Verve Reissues

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Vocal Jazz - Released April 17, 2000 | RCA Victor

Though she had been active since the 1940s -- while still a teenager -- vocalist Helen Merrill finally came to prominence in the 1950s through her recordings for EmArcy. By the end of the decade, she was rightfully known as one of the great American jazz singers. She toured Europe and headlined the Comblain la Tour Jazz Festival in 1960, and lived and worked in Italy for a few years. Composer/arranger Piero Umiliani convinced her to record a television program called Moderato Swing. When she agreed, he assembled a top-flight cast of Italian jazzmen -- some of whom were also composers -- to back her. This set compiles the music from that program. Merrill is backed by either a sextet or quartet. The interplay between her and Umiliani and his bands is instinctive. A fingerpopping reading of "Night and Day" features slippery electric guitar from the great Enzo Grillini, and "Everything Happens to Me" is one of the finest readings she ever recorded -- in no small part due to Umiliani's ethereal arrangement that includes his celeste playing. Her performance of "You Don't Know What Love Is" is startling. Umiliani's arrangement encourages the singer to leave all sentiment out of her delivery. She does so and replaces it with a brooding noir-ish sense of longing so intense that it implies menace. Nino Culasso's lyric muted trumpet solo underscores that tension. Umiliani's reputation for finding the poetic in a melody is on full display in "April in Paris," framed by his celeste and Tonino Ferrelli's expressive bassline supporting the sublimated desire in Merrill's vocal. The darkness in her voice had largely gone unnoticed by American producers to that point, but is highlighted here. The last three performances here, "Solitude," "Willow Weep for Me," and "When Your Lover Has Gone," come from out of the blues to wrap themselves around the words and dig deeply into the grain of the emotions they express. This set is appended by Fernando Cajati reading the lyrics in Italian between each song. Anglo listeners might initially find this a distraction, but upon repeated listening will find it adds holistically to the feel of the set. On Parole e Musica, the collaboration between Merrill and Umiliani is nothing short of sublime, and it also gives rise to a question: What might they have achieved had they worked together longer? ~ Thom Jurek
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Vocal Jazz - Released February 26, 2011 | BDMUSIC

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Pop - Released January 29, 2019 | Platin Classics Music

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | Lone Hill Jazz

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Jazz - Released February 18, 2016 | Blue Velvet

One thing that set Helen Merrill apart from other '50s jazz singers was her acutely dramatic vocal style. Her earnest phrasing, elongated notes, and incandescent tone might even strike the contemporary listener as qualities more appropriate for the Broadway stage than a jazz club. On 1955's Dream of You, though, Merrill found reconciliation, sounding both melodramatic and swinging within Gil Evans' darkly spacious, yet economical arrangements. Suitably, torchy ballads are prominent. On the somewhat grandiose side there's "Where Flamingos Fly" and "I'm a Fool to Want You," which find Merrill in a pensive mood amidst a variety of tempo and timbre shifts. More subdued ground is covered on "I've Never Seen" and "He Was Too Good to Me." Briskly swinging numbers like "People Will Say We're in Love," "By Myself," and "You're Lucky to Me" balance the program and feature the demure, yet fluid delivery Merrill favored on fast numbers. What is most impressive on this date is a group of sultry, medium tempo numbers including "Anyplace I Lay My Hat Is Home," "Just a Lucky So and So," and in particular "A New Town Is a Blue Town." The programmatic quality of Merrill's coyly sensual voice and Evans' slightly askew, bubbling reeds and languid rhythm conjure up dramatic, balmy southern scenes á la Tennessee Williams. In the picturesque arrangements one also hears the seeds of Evans' own future collaborations with Miles Davis. Even though her collaborations with Clifford Brown and others are great recordings, this one with Gil Evans shows off more of Merrill's expressive vocal talents, due in no small part to the sympathetic and urbane arrangements. ~ Stephen Cook
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1955 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released July 3, 2019 | RevOla

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 31, 2019 | Reborn recordings

Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Verve Reissues

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This 1965 album is the first of two great sessions for Milestone that the pianist Dick Katz arranged for Helen Merrill soon after she returned to New York from a triumphant second career in Japan and Italy. THE FEELING IS MUTUAL is a somewhat darker-hued affair than the gem-like A SHADE OF DIFFERENCE though many of the same fine musicians (Jim Hall, Ron Carter, Thad Jones, Elvin Jones) are on board. Heavily influenced by MJQ leader John Lewis, Katz's carefully calibrated approach is designed to effectively showcase Merrill's vocal artistry. Highlights include "Here's That Rainy Day," a reprise of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain" from Merrill's still classic 1954 debut, and the magical "Deep In A Dream," which closes the album with the lyrically apt accompaniment of Jim Hall on guitar.
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Jazz - Released January 4, 2019 | RevOla

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released November 11, 2011 | Fresh Sound Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released February 25, 2019 | nagel heyer records

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Jazz - Released August 19, 2019 | RevOla

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Vocal Jazz - Released February 25, 2019 | RevOla

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