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February 06, 2009


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nice work, and no if's, 'cause you got it. Helen's story is well worth hearing. of course it's possible to resist her wispy voice and mid-range vocalizing, but to coldly dismiss her as a cabaret singer not worth listening to is foolishly disrepectful and (given the attention and affection shown her by so many other big-name Jazz musicians) just plain wrong.

Red Colm O'Sullivan

Great stuff, Marc, really lapped it all up - and, happily, it sent me to my record shelves too (I have a lot of her records).
But, and very very important indeed: her albums, in the '80s, with the genius-level brilliant English pianist, Gordon Beck, are utterley ESSENTIAL.
Originally on OWL, now on Universal CD, they're her very greatest records in my serious and considered opinion - especially the 1st one. 1st is "No Tears, No Goodbyes" and then "Music Makers" with Stephane Grappelli and Steve Lacy added.
She and Gordon had an extraordinary rapport, and they toured extensively (sometimes with such as Red Mitchel and Tom Harrell added) - but his brilliance has to be heard to be believed (I know that pianist Joachim Kuhn referred to Gordon's haunting motif at the beginning of "No Tears - No Goodbyes" as "The most important 3 notes in European jazz piano history").
I had thought you'd get to these in the last part of the interview... but you simply MUST ask Ms. Merrill about Gordon Beck and, indeed, hear those indispensible albums (her greatest, after all!!!! I mean it).
Best, as always,
PS.: How, I wonder, will I ever get to hear the "Tommy Flanagan plays Harold Arlen" album I've been searching for forever... I did get excited when I read your piece about her Roland Hanna/Alec Wilder record, but now I'm no closer I feel...

Dan Feldman

I bought Casa Forte just to look at those EYES. My God, does she have beautiful eyes! (Haven't even played the album yet!)

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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 California Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year" winner.
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