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Lazaro Vega

Helen Merrill

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Yes, her singing sounds like pillow talk, yet on closer listening she's improvising, with mood, time, emotion, and is closely involved in the arrangements. From her first "hit" session with Clifford Brown, to the exciting unpredictable music recorded with Dick Katz, last night's Jazz From Blue Lake featured the music of Helen Merrill. If you missed it, here's another chance to listen. Helen Merrill : www.bluelake.org/ondemand (image by K. Abe).

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I love Helen Merrill and I have a theory of why, at least to me, she sounds better on her '50s sessions than later.

Given the timbre of her voice, she needs to be mic'd with a condenser microphone, which was most commonly used in the 1950s; my experience is that later engineers tend to always use ribbon mics; the effect, with a whispy voice like hers, is to deaden the sound of the voice (ribbons have a softening effect) and cause a loss of presence. Condensers, on the other hand, have high gain and just a generally fuller presence. This is why, to me, she sounds much better on the Clifford Brown sessions than, say, the Gil Evans re-do of Where Flamingos Fly.

just my opinion.

 

Edited by AllenLowe

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Tantric, quite often.

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She sat in with the Gil Evans Project last month at The Jazz Standard.

 

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When I moved from Boston to Chicago in 1975, Don DeMichael asked me to join a newly reconstituted Jazz Institute board and I did. Helen was a Chicago resident at the time and was a member of the board. 

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Much as I love her early sessions, I find myself returing more often to some of her later recordings.

Jelena Ana Milcetic, her "Croatian" record, is a particular favourite. Not a conventional vocal jazz album by any means and her singing voice may have lost all traces of "pillow talk" by that point, but it's hauntingly beautiful and very moving.

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21 hours ago, corto maltese said:

Much as I love her early sessions, I find myself returing more often to some of her later recordings.

Jelena Ana Milcetic, her "Croatian" record, is a particular favourite. Not a conventional vocal jazz album by any means and her singing voice may have lost all traces of "pillow talk" by that point, but it's hauntingly beautiful and very moving.

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Not bad either ....

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There's a "Willow Weep For Me" on this one where Helen Merrill & Wayne Shorter are magical, individually and collectively.

 

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She replied to this post on Facebook, writing, " yes, night thoughts from beauty of true love to the ugliness of cruelty, l "

 

And that's it. Wanting more!

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Just heard her first-ever recording this morning on a used Earl Hines CD that I picked up in Manchester ("A Cigarette For Company," with the Hines Sextet in 1952).

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And "A Whirl In A Whirl" from that one. Xanadu lp here.

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