Helen Merrill - Helen Merrill
Helen Merrill – Helen Merrill

“Clifford Brown, probably the most acclaimed jazz instrumentalist in 1954, acts (here) as the perfect foil. … He supplies the hot to Merrill’s cool. His technical prowess is on display and he plays quick runs of notes with remarkable delicacy. … the packaging is a tip-on jacket from Stoughton Printing. Unlike the original, it is a gatefold with session photos on the inside. An insert includes a bit of history about Robert Fine as well as detailed sessions notes. The pressing is a 200-gram slab of vinyl from Quality Record Pressings — enough said. This is a great reissue that, for all intents and purposes, is the only choice for serious listening. The original is priced out of reach for all but the wealthy.” —  Recording = 4.5/5; Music = 5/5 — Dennis D. Davis, The Audio Beat, May 27, 2020. Read the entire review here.

“I confess my ignorance of jazz singer Helen Merrill — or so it was until a couple of weeks ago, when Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds sent me a test pressing of his forthcoming reissue of her eponymous 1955 debut LP (EmArcy MG 36006/Analogue Productions AAPJ 127). To say I was impressed is an understatement. The album was recorded in December of 1954 by the legendary Bob Fine, at Fine Sound Inc., 711 5th Avenue in New York. Merrill, then only 24, was backed by a combo that included Clifford Brown on trumpet, Oscar Pettiford on bass, and pianist Jimmy Jones, with arrangements by Quincy Jones — himself a mere 21 years old at the time. The mono sound is on the (pleasantly) dry side and very forward, with taut-sounding drums and bass and an intimate vocal sound that at times comes close to being overly sibilant but never quite carries out the threat. Merrill’s intonation isn’t always spot-on (as in the intro to ‘Yesterdays’), but there’s something about her voice — an odd combination of breathy innocence and husky-toned experience that pulls me in time after time. (In ‘Don’t Explain,’ she intones the word quiet in a manner that could launch any number of ships.) And Clifford Brown’s trumpet is, as one might expect, perfect. Prices for the original mono LP reach into four-figure territory, so news of an affordable reissue is very good news indeed. Torch on.” — Art Dudley, Stereophile, March 2020

Leave a Reply