Recorded December 22, 24 1954 New York
Every recording by the short-lived trumpeter Clifford Brown is worth exploring, including his three dates with singers Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and this CD reissue with Helen Merrill. Reissued as part of box sets headed by Brown and Merrill, the highly enjoyable Brown/Merrill sessions are also available as this single CD. Trumpeter Brown is joined by Danny Bank on baritone and flute, and a four-piece rhythm section including pianist Jimmy Jones and guitarist Barry Galbraith. Quincy Jones provided the arrangements. The music is essentially straight-ahead bop, yet the seven standards (which include "Don't Explain," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," and "Falling in Love With Love") are uplifted by the presence of Merrill (in top form) and Brown.
-Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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The Works of Clifford Brown Presented with Improved Sound Thanks to Digital Mastering Digital Mastering was first carried out on the original master tapes of the "We Remember Clifford Original Collection", which were then reissued as 30cm LPs, meeting with high critical praise on account of the astonishingly clear, sparkling sound of Max Roach's cymbals and Clifford Brown's trumpet. These records have become highly valued by fans of Compact Discs, who are ever searching for better and more beautiful sound quality.
"Helen Merrill" has been issued several times hitherto, but there is no doubt that the best sound is available on the present Compact Disc.
It is indeed a happy event when a jazz record produced in 1954 can come back to life with improved sound in the form of a Compact Disc.
Helen Merrill began singing professionally from the age of fifteen, and is thus a veteran with a singing career stretching over forty years. However, the recording for which she is most celebrated is undoubtedly "Helen Merrill", an album recorded when she was twenty-five years old. The record thus has the sparkle of youth, with a hint of seductiveness, but, as well as this, it is a superb example of jazz singing, as such not only being Merrill's own most famous work, being counted amongst the best examples of jazz vocalise ever produced.
It must not be overlooked however that the success of the album was made possible also thanks to the superb arrangements of the then twenty-one year old Quincy Jones and the accompaniment provided by Clifford Brown and the other first-rate musicians.
All the conditions were thus favourable for the production of a true masterpiece. As well as being the album which launched Merrill's career, it would, had it been a work of literature, no doubt have been awarded one of the major annual literary prizes.
It was this record which made Helen Merrill into a star, and, especially in Japan, created a large body of Helen Merrill fans, her renderings of "You'd be So Nice to Come Home to" and "Falling in Love with Love" as included on the album becoming almost synonymous with her name.
Helen Merrill lived in Japan for five years between 1967 and 1972 in connection with her husband's work, and thus became a Japanophile with some ability in the Japanese language. Meeting her three years ago by chance in a New York club, she began the conversation in Japanese by joking that she couldn't speak English. She has visited Japan to give concerts on several occasions over the recent years, and her popularity in Japan remains at a very high level.
She seems to have become rejuvenated recently, and her voice now projects beautifully. It almost makes one think that she might have fallen in love once again, since women seem truly to sparkle when they are in love.
The present session was planned by Bob Shad, who was working at the time as the producer for EmArcy, as Helen's first album on the EmArcy label. The planning was carried out with the greatest care, engagement being offerred to the top young trumpeter, Clifford Brown, and arrangements being commissioned from the young arranger, Quincy Jones, who was a colleague of Brown in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, with which he had travelled to Europe, there to record with the orchestra for French Vogue. The plan succeeded brilliantly, and the album not only launched Helen's career, but met everywhere with the highest critical acclaim.
Helen Merrill possesses a slightly husky but at the same time fine and delicate voice. She was born on 21 July 1930. Her parents were of Yugoslav origin , and the sensitive and finely wrought expressive powers which she brings to bear in her work might well be related to her European background and account for the responsive chord which she strikes with Japanese listeners. She has a calm and reserved personality, almost to the extent that she seems Japanese in character. Ever since her first visit to Japan, she has always received a warm welcome in this country.
The pieces recorded on the album are as follows:
-Born to be Blue
-You'd be so Nice to Come Home to
Helen Merrill: Vocals
Clifford Brown: Trumpet
Danny Bank: Baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute
Jimmy Jones: Piano
Barry Galbraith: Guitar
Milt Hinton: Bass
Osie Johnson: Drums
Quincy Jones: Arranger, conductor
Recorded in New York on 22 December 1954.
-Falling in Love with Love - What's New
Hinton and Jones are absent in the above pieces, the ensemble being completed by Oscar Pettiford (bass, cello) and Bobby Donaldson (drums). Bank is absent in "What's New". Recorded in New York on 24 December 1954.
1. Don't Explain
This is a sad love song composed by Billy Holliday, in collaboration with Arthur Herzog, supposedly after her husband had returned home after a bout of unfaithfulness. Brownie's melancholy trumpet solo emphasises the sadness of the song. The feelings expressed here might well be different from those actually experienced by Billy, but that hardly matters since everybody's experience of love is different.
2. You'd be so Nice to Come Home to
This song became well-known in Japan almost entirely thanks to Helen Merrill. The lyrics and melody were composed in 1943 by Cole Porter for the film "Something to Shout About". The piece is in medium tempo, and features a superb arrangement by Quincy Jones. The touch of sadness in Helen's voice, Brownie's solo-all the elements combine to create a perfect rendering of the song.
3. What's New
This song was written by Bob Haggart who used to play the bass with Bob Crosby and His Bob Cats, and the lyrics were the work of Jonny Burke. It is a beautiful romantic ballad, and the delicate European manner in which Helen treats the rhythm is quite superb. Brownie's solo also feasts the ears.
4. Falling in Love with Love
Composed in 1938 by Richard Rogers, with lyrics by Laurence Hart. This is also one of Helen's most well-known numbers. The lyrics run to the effect that everybody when young plays the fool by falling in love with love, but real love is then allowed to escape by. The spotlight is given to Pettiford's cello, Jones's piano, and Brownie's trumpet.
A song composed by Jerome Kern for "Roberta", and with lyrics by Otto Harback. The piece features stylish singing and playing. Especially impressive is Helen's dreamy ballad singing style.
6. Born to be Blue
This is one of the most well-known songs of the singer Mel Torme, written in collaboration with Robert Wells.
This is one of Helen's favourite songs, and she sang it at the reception which was given when she came to Japan for the first time. The piece is sung in a fast tempo with a swinging rhythm. The song was composed by George Gershwin. Despite the fact that she had only just started upon her career, her individual singing style is already in full evidence, indicating that she is a singer of no mean ability. Also well worth a listen are Jones's piano, Galbraith's guitar, and Brownie's trumpet.