Helen Merrill Biography

Jelena Ana Milcetic, 21 July 1930, New York City, New York, USA. Merrill’s early career found her singing in exalted bebop company. Among the major artists with whom she sang in the late 40s were Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Bud Powell. She spent part of the 50s outside music, but continued to make a few records with notable figures such as Clifford Brown; by the end of the decade, she was resident in Italy and a familiar figure at European festivals. In the early 60s, she returned to the USA but had difficulty in attracting the attention of either radio and television networks or the major record companies. She did make a handful of records backed by leading musicians such as Thad Jones, Ron Carter, Richard Davis, Elvin Jones and Jim Hall. By the late 60s, Merrill was again resident outside the USA, this time in Japan, where her talents were much appreciated. Back in the USA in the mid-70s, she was still largely overlooked but was periodically recorded, again with excellent jazz backing from the likes of Teddy Wilson, John Lewis and Pepper Adams. In November 1994, Merrill reappeared on the scene, promoting a new album and planning a UK and European tour for 1995. One of the most musical of singers, Merrill customarily explores the emotional depths of the lyrics of songs, imbuing them with great passion.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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