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Helen Merrill, JUST FRIENDS

Helen Merrill, JUST FRIENDS

De una de mis cantantes favoritas, en un buen año. Un disco magnífico que nadie reedita—so it goes. Por suerte está YouTube.

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—de ahí vienen estas notas sobre Helen Merrill y Just Friends.

Veteran singer Helen Merrill is greatly assisted on this fine set by the warm tenor of Stan Getz, who was always a perfect choice for accompanying vocalists. With pianist Joachim Kuhn (replaced by Torrie Zito on three of the nine songs), bassist Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark and drummer Daniel Humair completing the group, Merrill sounds quite inspired on such selections as "Just Friends," "It Don’t Mean a Thing," "Yesterdays" and even "It’s Not Easy Being Green." Virtually all of Helen Merrill’s recordings are special events because of the planning and intelligent ideas that go into them; this recommended set is no exception. ~ Scott Yanow
Asian pressing of album recorded in 1989 in Paris and New York and currently unavailable domestically. Universal. 2005.
Vocalist Helen Merrill and saxophonist Stan Getz collaborate on the 1992 album JUST FRIENDS. Tracks include "It’s Not Easy Being Green" and "Yesterdays." Clifford Brown, and this recording with saxophonist Stan Getz. Features nine cuts, including the standards "Just Friends," "Yesterdays," and "It Never Entered My Mind."

Recognized as one of the country’s great jazz singers, Helen Merrill is also one of the least known, except to aficionados. In this remarkable album from 1989, Merrill, then almost sixty years old, teams up with Stan Getz to record a stunning exhibition of improvisational jazz. Her mature voice is rich and powerful, but she retains a sweetness that allows her to be whispery, melancholy, pensive, or sexy without sounding "thin" or fragile. The timbre of Getz’s sax blends perfectly with her alto to create a double-barreled melodic line, and their individual talents at improvisation lead to interpretations of immense creativity. The album is Merrill’s, however, with Getz supporting but not overpowering her, remembering always that he is the talented guest on the album.
The songs encompass many moods. "Cavatina," written by Cleo Laine, is soft, slow, and wonderfully romantic, and Getz’s variations build on the romance. "It Never Entered My Mind" shows Merrill’s control, as she almost whispers the lyrics, creating a pensive, moody ballad with fresh sounds and interpretations. By contrast, "Just Friends" is upbeat and quick, and "It Don’t Mean a Thing," an Ellington song, is wild and swingy, with a terrific piano solo (Joachim Kuhn) to continue the melodic variations introduced by Getz. "Baby, Ain’t I Good to You" gets the slow, sexy treatment, while Jacques Brel’s "If You Go Away," so often a song of agony and passion, is introduced by Getz’s solo sax and becomes quiet and melancholy here, moodier and less threatening than most other interpretations.
The climax is "Yesterdays," a song so filled with improvisation that it is sometimes difficult to recognize the original melody. Merrill stays in the background here as Getz and bassist Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark go to town creating a fresh sound for this standard. Impeccable in its musical presentation and very dramatic in its originality, this album sets the standard for collaboration between two jazz stars who obviously respect each other and their medium--and it may be Merrill’s best album.
01. Cavatina (C.Laine/S.Myers).......(00:00)
02. It Never Entered My Mind (L.Hart/R.Rodgers)...(05:47)
03. Just Friends (J.Klenner/S.Lewis)......(12:00)
04. It Don’t Mean A Thing (D.Ellington/I.Mills)...(16:38)
05. Baby Ain’t I Good To You (Don Redman)......(22:40)
06. It’s Not Easy Being Green (Joe Raposo).......(25:30)
07. If You Go Away (J.Brel/R.McKuen)...(28:24)
08. Yesterdays (O.Harbach/J.Kern)........(32:26)
09. Music Maker (H.Merrill/T.Zito)..........(39:10).
1.Helen Merrill - vocals
2.Stan Getz - tenor saxophone
3.Joachim Kuhn - piano
4.Torrie Zito - piano
5.Jean-Francois Jenny Clark - bass
6.Daniel Humair - drums.
Genre: Vocal Jazz.
Recorded:June 11-July 5, 1989.

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