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3.10.07

Helen Merrill


helenmerril-singsthebeatles1970




Helen Merrill - Helen Merrill Sings The Beatles - 1970 - Victor

In 1970, her album, "Sings Beatles", seemed like a very ambitious experiment. The repertoire and arrangements were, at that time, a departure from her standards. This album, back in the seventies, would probably have been branded pop-rock music. Listening to this album today, one can really appreciate the original interpretations she brings to the Beatle's music. Jazz vocalist Helen Merrill was renowned for her cool reserve and elegant style of swing and she sounds great in this superbly recorded live-in-the-studio session. This 1970 album was originally only released in Japan and pianist Masahiko Satoh adds a marvellous jazz-pop touch to the Lennon & McCartney classics. The psychedelic guitar really date stamps the time period. A top class record for fans of the Beatles, and Helen Merrill. This great and very hard to find album was rereleased on CD on JVC XRCD. This album is VHR by A.O.O.F.C. If you can find her 1954 album, " Helen Merrill with Clifford Brown, " give it a listen. It's a terrific jazz album, and is probably reissued on CD somewhere. Helen Merrill is not a very well known jazz vocalist, and her work deserves much more recognition. Check out her discography.

TRACKS

1. Let It Be
2. Lady Madonna
3. Because
4. The Word
5. Norwegian Wood
6. Here, There, and Everywhere
7. Golden Slumbers
8. And I Love Him
9. In My Life
10. Mother Nature's Son
11. If I Fell
12. I Want You

Recorded in Tokyo, 1970


MUSICIANS

Helen Merrill, Vocals
Masahiko Sato, Piano, Arranger
Yasuo Arakawa, Bass
Takeshi Inomata, Drums

REVIEWS

Jazz vocalist Helen Merrill was known for cool reserve and elegant style of swing and she's in fine form here in a superbly recorded live-in-the-studio session. This 1970 album was originally only released in Japan and the repertoire and arrangements are a departure from her standards. Pianist Masahiko Satoh adds jazz-pop sensibilities to the Lennon & McCartney songbook with a bit of psychedelic guitar that marks the time period. A fascinating record for fans of the Fab Four and Helen Merrill alike.I Want You Copyright © 2007 musicdirect. All rights reserved
Helen Merrill's dark, smoky voice and rangy interpretive powers gave her the opportunity to shine with many types of material; for this 1970 date she leads a small Japanese group celebrating the Lennon/McCartney canon, in an experiment that's not merely successful but immensely pleasurable. The material focuses on two distinct Beatles periods (19651966 and 19681969), and Merrill studiously avoids many of the standards that older artists were then latching onto. ("Something," the consummate Beatles standard for nonrock vocalists, is conspicuously absent.) Instead, Merrill dwells on McCartney and Lennon as masters of lyrical, introspective songcraft, choosing for her tribute the drowsy, contemplative songs "Here, There and Everywhere," "And I Love Him," "Let It Be," "Golden Slumbers," "In My Life," and so forth. Most of the versions are stretched out by her small band, nearly always for good; only "The Word" sounds downright embarrassing in a brassy, jazzfunk arrangement. It's always Merrill's performances, though, that make this record a success. One of vocal music's finest freeform interpreters, she records versions neither rote nor experimental, ones that remember the originals but add much to their feel and harmonics (always an important quality when you face the prospect of covering 12 of the most memorized performances in recording history). Really, no other jazz vocalist could survive and thrive like this: recording abstract arrangements of a rock songbook in Tokyo in 1970 with a band whose easily dateable arrangements occasionally threaten their talent. She even finds subtle ways to succeed with the straightahead rocker "Lady Madonna." © John Bush, All Music Guide
Often compared to Billie Holiday, Helen Merrill is considered one of the top Jazz Vocalists of her time. She has recorded over 40+ albums in the last 40+ years including her hit album “What’s New”, considered by many in Japan as the best jazz album in the last 50 years. Helen Merrill “Sings the Beatles” is a dedication to the sound of the Beatles and was recorded in Japan and originally released in 1970. It was recorded live in the studio and arranged by Japanese pianist Masahiko Satoh. All the songs for this album were picked with the help of her son, Allan Merrill, writer of such Pop Hits as “I Love Rock & Roll” and “When the Night Comes”. Hear on this album such classic Beatles tunes as “Let it be”, “Lady Madonna”, and “Here There and Everywhere” with the warm sound that only XRCD24 can deliver! Re-live the glory days of the fab-four on this very special release by JVC. © 2006 Elusive Disc, Inc. All rights reserved

BIO

Helen Merrill's long history in jazz began with her first album on the Mercury Emarcy label arranged and produced by Quincy Jones in 1954 up to her latest CD album released in early 2000. In between were more then 50 Jazz albums and countless concerts, club dates, festivals and other jazz activities.
Ms. Merrill was born in New York City on July 21, 1929. Her parents were Croatian immigrants and her most recent recording is titled “Jelena Ana Milcetic, AKA Helen Merrill” tracing her musical experience. She started her career at the 845 club in the Bronx wile still in high school. The promoter at the club was noted for his ability to spot young future stars. Among these appearing with Helen at the time were Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Oscar Pettiford, and numerous others. The name on the marquee was Helen Milcetic, her name which she later changed to Merrill.
Ms. Merrill entered the world of music just as the big band era was ending and the much more challenging field of working with small groups had begun. During these formative years she worked with Earl Hines, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Clifford Brown, Gil Evans, Charlie Byrd, Marian McPartland, Al Haig, Jim Hall, Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, and literally hundreds of other musicians.
Although she has made a large number of jazz albums and knows her way around recording studios in the United States, Japan and Europe, Ms. Merrill's recording career began in a non-commercial atmosphere in the now famous Rudy Van Gelder studio in New Jersey. She was accompanied by Jimmy Rainey, Don Elliot and Red Mitchell. The result was a single that eventually led to a contract with Mercury. Without much fanfare, Mercury released a jazz album titled simply “Helen Merrill”
It was an instant success and has remained so to this day, more then 45 years later. The album, including one of the most acclaimed versions of the song, “What's new?” has been reissued and repackaged scores of times on various labels around the world. Readers of the Japanese magazine FM radio voted the recording the best jazz album of the past 50 years.
Mercury quickly signed Ms.Merrill to a new contract calling for four additional jazz albums. That first album featured Jimmy Jones, piano; Clifford Brown, trumpet; Milt Hinton, bass; Oscar Pettiford, cello and bass; Barry Galbraith, guitar; and others. The songs were “Whets New?” “Don't explain” “Born to Be Blue” “You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To” “Falling In Love With Love” “Lilac Wine” and “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year”
She recorded “Helen Merrill with Strings” for Mercury in 1955, “Dream of You” in 1956, “Merrill at Midnight” in 1957 and “Nearness of You” also in 1957.
Helen Merrill lived for a number of years in Europe and recorded jazz albums in Italy, France and Norway and did frequent concerts. She made a number of trips to Japan for concerts and recorded for Japan Victor. She eventually moved to Tokyo in 1967. She returned to New York in 1972 where she now lives, making annual concert tours in Japan and Europe.
Ms. Merrill recorded two Jazz albums in New York which have had exceptional success throughout the jazz world. They were “The Feeling is Mutual” and “A Shade of Difference” with arrangements by Dick Katz, featuring Thad Jones, flugelhorn; Hubert Laws, flute; Jim Hall, guitar; Ron Carter and Richard Davis, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; Garry Bartz, saxophone. Ms. Merrill sings “A Lady Must Live” “My Funny Valentine” “Lonely Woman” “Where Do You Go?” and other jazz numbers
Both Albums have recently been reissued in the CD format by Polygram on the Verve Label
PolyGram also has reissued a boxed set of CDs of the first Mercury albums under the title “The Complete Helen Merrill on Mercury” As a footnote to history, the late Leonard Feather, jazz historian and music critic for the Los Angeles Times, said in his book “The Book Of Jazz, From Then 'Till Now” (Dell), in discussing the gradual hiring of white musicians in black bands and hiring of blacks in previously all white orchestras, “...the most stubborn barrier of all. Involving implicit defiance of the mongrelization taboo against which southern politicians had inveighed in the race for white votes, fell in 1952 when Helen Merrill, unmistakably blonde, sang for three month's with Earl Hines Sextet...”
In that same book, Feather wrote: “Srah Vaughans impact was a prelude to a succession of borderline pop-jazz vocalists. Nat King Cole, a jazz singer by any yardstick when he recorded with his own accompaniment in the early 1940s, was strictly a pop singer with faint tracers of jazz when he died in 1965. In a similar fringe zone are Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Barbra Streisand, and dozens others who have been mildly influenced by real jazz singers, There is a significant common denominator; these artists, though beyond reproach as performers, have little or no deep feeling for the blues.
“A few have shown real jazz qualities; Peggy Lee and Helen Merrill, for example, both have warmth of timbre, an acute sense of phrasing and a soulful quality that give their best work a beauty comparable with Billie Holidays
Ms.Merrill has recorded more then 40 albums. Authorized profile editor(s) for Helen Merrill: © Michael Ricci , © 2007 All About Jazz

5 comments:

P said...

thanks

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi P. Thank you also for posting your appreciation. Come back soon

A.O.O.F.C said...

LINK

il angelo said...

rare indeed. Thanks for this and for the Root 70 (great live band)

A.O.O.F.C said...

TVM, il angelo! Many of the links on this blog were maliciously deleted. They will all be re-posted. Come back soon.