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Helen Merrill With Clifford Brown [Japanese Import] Original recording remastered, Import

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Product details

  • Audio CD (21 Nov. 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered, Import
  • Label: Emarcy
  • ASIN: B000VZE0EG
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,697,630 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Originally recorded in December, 1954, when Helen Merrill was only twenty-five, this recording, now digitally remastered and re-released, was heralded the start of her amazing career. With Clifford Brown on trumpet, arrangements by Quincy Jones, who was himself only twenty-one, and fantastic back-up (Jimmy Jones on piano is especially notable), Helen Merrill was free to unloose her jazz interpretations and her explore her dramatic talent with lyrics. With a lush voice which still retains the sweetness of youth, she offers new variations on familiar melodic lines, provides sensitive interpretations of sad songs, and happily jives to the upbeat.

Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain," one of the saddest songs ever written, is brilliantly interpreted by Merrill, as she reflects the innocence of the betrayed lover who still loves and needs the betrayer and therefore chooses to accept betrayal. When Merrill sings, "You're my joy--and pain," no listener can fail to be moved. Clifford Brown's solo, though more assertive in mood than Merrill, adds to the drama. Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," more upbeat, is classic Merrill, the beautiful lyrics gaining the full romantic treatment, sometimes whispery, with Jimmy Jones's piano in the background and brushwork by drummer Osie Johnson before Brown enters for his solo.

"What's New" by Johnny Mercer receives a slower treatment than usual, Merrill singing in a pensive mood as she reminisces about the past and provides jazz variations to the melodic line. Brown's stellar solo is jazzier, more upbeat and full of improvisation. "Falling in Love With Love," another of Merrill's famous songs, also features a jazz cello by Oscar Pettiford, while the mournful "Yesterdays" is full of vocal variations and jazz improvisation by Brown.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x99024ab4) out of 5 stars 24 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9922472c) out of 5 stars Grand slam on first frip to the plate. 3 July 2000
By Elmo's Firetruck - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I wasn't born when Helen Merill made this record on Christmas Eve some 45 years ago, but it's been in near constant rotation for me for almost 20 years. This is one of the truly GREAT vocal albums of all time--Helen Merrill has the kind of voice that should make just about every man go weak in the knees. Sure, she doesn't have the chops of Ella, Sarah or Billie, but her timing is on par with any of them and she can convey sadness and longing with the best of them(and it doesn't hurt on this recording to have Clifford Brown--among other heavyweights-- backing her up). These are the definitive performances of "You'd be so nice to come home to" and "Falling in Love with Love."
Unfortunately, Helen Merrill never really lived up to the promise of this album. A couple of pretty good records for Emarcy and another for MetroJazz from the mid-to-late 1950's are fine, but then she went into hiding in Italy for a while and resurfaced in Japan and made a few good records there. She's had a good career, but her first record is still her best (and one of the best jazz albums EVER in my opinion.)
ESSENTIAL!
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d7ee48c) out of 5 stars First-class 16 April 2003
By N. Dorward - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a pretty astonishing debut for the young Merrill, and though she has recorded many fine albums (including her exceptional recent run for Verve/Gitanes) none quite touches this one. The arrangements are by Quincy Jones--hardly the calibre of Gil Evans, whom she brought in for her next album, but attractive nonetheless. Most importantly, Jones chose a light & spacious instrumentation that placed most of the emphasis on Clifford Brown's trumpet (who is the sole horn except for some discreet baritone & flute from Danny Banks), & he also was willing to grant Merrill the kind of achingly slow ballad tempos that can turn turgid & dull in the wrong hands but which are actually Merrill's forte. Only one track here--the last, "S'Wonderful"--is uptempo, & the rest ranges from medium ("You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to") to slow ("Born to Be Blue") to _really_ slow ("Yesterdays", "Don't Explain").
That sounds like a recipe for tedium (it would be with most singers), & yet the results are fascinating throughout, & sometimes have real raised-goosebumps power. Merrill's distinctive, almost vibratoless style--very breathy, somehow both guileless but smart, & without any distancing displays of virtuosity--is complemented by Clifford Brown's gentle but very precise (almost calligraphic) improvisations. These are some of the best of Brown's solos on record--the kind of thing that makes any aspiriing musician run to their instrument to start trying to lift it. Perhaps surprisingly, Brown's solo work here has the definite edge over his other notable recording with a vocalist, Sarah Vaughan.
Fans of this disc will want to search out Merrill's now out of print disc _Brownie_, in which she revisited much of the material from this disc, with an all-star trumpet ensemble playing arrangements of Brown's solos from this disc. It's a very affecting tribute, & is by no means a mere postscript to this disc. It's a pity, though, that while the later disc includes "Born to Be Blue", "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" & "Don't Explain", it doesn't include a version of "Yesterdays", which includes perhaps my favourite of Brown's features on the original recording (complete with its graceful allusions to "Parker's Mood").
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9941903c) out of 5 stars breathtaking 10 Feb. 2003
By Lucy Lucy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I'm so glad I have this record. It's so refreshing to stumble accross a vocalist this unique. Her voice is so soft but strong. The mood of the album is so low key, deep, introspective. I wish more people my age were more willing to search for vocal artists as astonishing and unique as Helen Merrill.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x992681a4) out of 5 stars "It was this record that made Helen Merrill into a star." 3 April 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Originally recorded in December, 1954, when Helen Merrill was only twenty-five, this recording, now digitally remastered and re-released, was her professional breakthrough. With Clifford Brown on trumpet, arrangements by Quincy Jones, who was himself only twenty-one, and fantastic back-up (Jimmy Jones on piano is especially notable), Helen Merrill was free to unloose her jazz interpretations and her explore her dramatic talent with lyrics. With a lush voice which still retains the sweetness of youth, she offers new variations on familiar melodic lines, provides sensitive interpretations of sad songs, and happily jives to the upbeat.

Billy Holiday's "Don't Explain," one of the saddest songs ever written, is brilliantly interpreted by Merrill, as she reflects the innocence of the betrayed lover who still loves and needs the betrayer and therefore chooses to accept betrayal. When Merrill sings, "You're my joy--and pain," no listener can fail to be moved. Clifford Brown's solo, though more assertive in mood than Merrill, adds to the drama. Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," more upbeat, is classic Merrill, the beautiful lyrics gaining the full romantic treatment, sometimes whispery, with Jimmy Jones's piano in the background and brushwork by drummer Osie Johnson before Brown enters for his solo.

"What's New" by Johnny Mercer receives a slower treatment than usual, Merrill singing in a pensive mood as she reminisces about the past and provides jazz variations to the melodic line. Brown's stellar solo is jazzier, more upbeat and full of improvisation. "Falling in Love With Love," another of Merrill's famous songs, also features a jazz cello by Oscar Pettiford, while the mournful "Yesterdays" is full of vocal variations and jazz improvisation by Brown. "'S Wonderful," the fastest paced, most upbeat song on the CD also features fascinating instrumentation, with lots of fast brushwork, a guitar solo, and Brown's trumpet exploring the full range of the instrument.

Youthful, with an innocent, honest sound, Merrill is no newcomer, having sung professionally since she was fifteen, but here she is at her early best-still having the freshness of youth while having achieved the skills to control her voice and set the pace and mood for the instrumentation in this fantastic album, which features Brown just eighteen months before his death. Those who are fans of Merrill may also enjoy hearing "Just Friends," an amazing CD she made with Stan Getz in 1990, when she was, unbelievably, sixty. n Mary Whipple
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x990db324) out of 5 stars A jazz singer's brilliant debut album, with all-star backup 14 July 1998
By davenoft@con2.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
What jazz singer, today, could assemble for his or her debut album the likes of legendary trumpeter Clifford Brown; guitarist Barry Galbraith; bassists Milt Hinton and Oscar Pettiford; and a then-21-year-old arranger named Quincy Jones?
Few if any could pull off an equivalent assemblage of contemporary giants today. But an unknown 25-year-old jazz singer, Helen Merrill, managed it in 1955 by virtue of the straight ahead clarity of her beautiful voice, innocent yet tinged with just the right amount of sultriness needed to make it more than an obvious effect.
The solos of Clifford Brown--a trumpeter who'd have given Miles Davis more than a little competition if he'd lived--are particularly striking, alternately plaintive and celebratory, almost an extension of Merrill's voice. So too Jimmy Jones's piano, particularly on Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain."
Like John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" or Miles Davis's "Kinda Blue," Helen Merril! ! l's 1955 debut album--now remastered on CD--is not for nostalgia buffs. Rather, it's for jazz fans who know an original, a classic, when they hear one.
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