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Helen Merrill: You and the Night and the Music

There hangs about this recording something of the air of art song. This stems in part from the voice and piano settings that carry a quarter of the selections-but even the ensemble pieces have an arranged quality, a deliberate drama that only the most sensitive musicians can sustain. Fortunately, that is very much the case here. Merrill’s beautifully pitched, declamatory style plays elegantly against the piano stylings of Masabumi Kikuchi and Torrie Zito, who composed two pieces heard here for which Merrill provided lyrics. They are complemented on the rhythm end of the equation by Charlie Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums, and on the melodic end by Tom Harrell on trumpet and flugelhorn. When they roll into a more relaxed groove, as on “I Want to Be Happy” and the title track, the session comes into true focus.

Originally Published