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Helen Merrill - Dream Of You - (1956)

Helen Merrill - Dream Of You - (1956)

Helen Merrill - Dream Of You (1956)
EAC rip | APE (image + .cue, log-file) | Scans | Length: | Rar 3% rec. | 305 MB
Genre: Jazz, Vocal | Label: PolyGram Records

In the department of female vocalists jazz has been blessed with some of the most undeniably virtuoso singers of the past and present century--from Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan to Diane Shuur and Roberta Gamberini. But the music has also allowed for the inclusion of sensitive artists who, while not possessing the most formidable instruments and technique, were compelling if not hypnotic story-tellers, capable of getting to the essence of the best songs from that treasure trove known as "The Great American Songbook" and of bringing them to vibrant life, frequently exceeding the readings of the performers for whom the songs were originally written.

Helen Merrill is in the same league as Billie Holiday, someone who tells the song's emotional story and does so without the least trace of exhibitionism or, simply, the need to "impress." American popular song is, above all, the art of artlessness, the elevation of the "common individual" in the democratic American dream quilt over the elite and aristocratic, the privileging of the "natural" over anything overtly artificial in terms of diction, elocution, or projection. Those qualities may be present in the performer's consciousness, but rarely can they afford to call attention to themselves. With a range at one point of less than an octave, and with failing breath reserves, Billie Holiday could still tap profound emotions by making music that seemed as effortless, unforced, natural as the ripening of fruit on the vine.

Helen Merrill has many of the same traits, though in some respects hers is the purest aesthetic of them all. Listening to her, I'm not reminded of a personal biography or of personal circumstances extraneous to the music itself. There's only the song, the arrangement, and the chemistry of remarkable musicians. If you can judge musicians by the company they keep, Merrill is among the greats simply because of the giants she has been able to enlist on her projects--from Gil Evans and Clifford Brown to Thad Jones and Ron Carter.

A song like "Lazy Afternoon" is a signature piece, tailor-made for her aesthetic--the breathy, diffused sound, slightly delayed diction, strains that come across like musical sighs--practically the onomatopoeic equivalent of a lazy afternoon, with clouds of cumulus floating overhead in timeless summer ether. The songs are pleasant, relaxing, quiet--but don't be deceived. Hers is the art of the minimalist: everything is about scale. Once you have the measure of her dynamics, each song becomes like a moment's monument--a scintillating, crystalline, many-faceted jewel capable of provoking new discoveries with each listening.

Once again, Spain's Fresh Sounds deserves this country's appreciation (not to mention support) for compiling this package of choice Merrill performances. The company would be a bastion against cultural mediocrity and vulgarity if only for last year's assembling and release of the indispensable Curtis Counce recordings. The continued selectivity and productivity of Fresh Sounds (along with quality pressings, complete and new liner notes, attention to production values) should place in the Spanish company's debt anyone who cares about some of the best recorded music since the release of the first jazz recording not that long ago (1917--within the lifetime of numerous Americans).


01. People Will Say We're in Love (2:34)
02. By Myself (3:23)
03. Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home (4:10)
04. I've Never Seen (3:33)
05. A New Town Is a Blue Town (3:01)
06. He Was Too Good to Me (3:09)
07. You're Lucky to Me (3:25)
08. Where Flamingos Fly (2:44)
09. Dream of You (2:53)
10. I'm a Fool to Want You (4:06)
11. I'm Just a Lucky So and So (3:08)
12. Troubled Waters (3:14)
13. Alone Together (master take) (3:11)
14. Alone Together (alternate take) (3:10)
15. Glad to Be Unhappy (2:50)
16. This Is My Night to Cry (3:06)
17. How's the World Treating You? (alternate take) (2:57)
18. How's the World Treating You? (master take) (2:56)

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