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Search Arts
Search Arts
Helen Merrill On Piano Jazz
Vocalist Helen Merrill got her start singing with the Earl Hines band and recorded an acclaimed album with Clifford Brown, Oscar Pettiford and Milt Hinton. On this 1995 session, Merrill is joined by host Marian McPartland for duets on "Home on the Range" and "Don't Explain." Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Helen Merrill was born Jelena Ana Milcetic in 1930 to Croatian immigrant parents in New York City. She began singing in jazz clubs in the Bronx at the age of 14; after persuading her father, she hit the road with a band. In 1952, Merrill made her recording debut singing "A Cigarette For Company" with Earl Hines' band, and two short years later recorded her acclaimed eponymous album with legendary trumpet player Clifford Brown and bassist Oscar Pettiford. The album was produced and arranged by a 21-year-old Quincy Jones, and was one of Brown's last recordings before he was killed in a car accident just two years later.

Merrill managed to work with a second legendary arranger for her follow-up, 1956's Dream of You, produced and arranged by Gil Evans. With Merrill, Evans worked out several of the ideas for his hugely successful run with Miles Davis to come a few years later. Merrill toured extensively through Europe and Japan in the late 1950s and 1960s, recording with Chet Baker and Stan Getz, among others, and settling in Japan, where she developed a strong following. Later in her career, Merrill has recorded albums of bossa nova, show tunes, holiday music and Croatian folk tunes sung in Croatian.

On this Piano Jazz session from 1995, Helen Merrill is in fine form on tunes including "Dream of You," "Don't Explain," "Home on the Range," and her signature take on Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to."

Originally recorded Jan. 6, 1995. Originally broadcast May 13, 1995. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

Set List

"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" (C. Porter)

"What's New" (B. Haggart)

"Dream of You" (S. Oliver)

"Blame It On My Youth" (Levant, Heyman)

"The Winter of My Discontent" (A. Wilder)

"Don't Explain" (B. Holliday, A. Herzer)

"Home on the Range" (J. Lomax)

"Portrait of Helen Merrill" (M. McPartland)

"Gone With the Wind" (H. Magidson, A. Wrubel)