Interview: Helen Merrill (Part 2) - JazzWax

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February 03, 2009


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two shy, decent, happy kids--Helen and Clifford, that is, ably abetted by some pals--having a good time in the studio; and what do you know, a timeless classic album, still affecting, still swinging, still loved around the world 54 years later! we all remember Clifford, so how can so many somehow forget Helen? do artists really have to die young to become cherished as icons? thanks for getting this excellent interview.

Larry Kart

Never cared for Merrill's singing. In particular, she seems to want to be a jazz singer but has a cabaret singer's (primarily dramatic/verbal) sensibility. And her sorts of drama -- arguably coy, mannered emphases, more or less applied from outside the flow of the music -- would not be to my taste anyways. Another thing: When one's voice is both as vibrato-free and as thin in tone as Merrill's tends to be, any moments of rhythmic awkwardness, lack of rhythmic precision, or just passages of no particular rhythmic life, will be quite apparent. I hear this in Merrill quite often. Legitimate possible points of comparison, with the comparisons being not at all in Merrill's favor IMO, would be Chris Connor and Irene Kral. Jackie Cain, too.

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  • Marc Myers writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (Univ. of Calif. Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax was named the 2015 "Blog of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association.
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