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Helen Merrill

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Helen Merrill (born Jelena Ana Milcetic on July 21, 1930 in New York City) is an internationally known jazz vocalist.
Merrill’s recording career has spanned six decades and she is popular with fans of jazz in Japan and Italy (where she lived for many years) as well as in her native United States. She has recorded and performed with some of the most notable figures in the American jazz scene.

Youth and early career in the states

Merrill was born in 1930 to Croatian immigrant parents. She began singing in jazz clubs in the Bronx at the age of fourteen. By the time she was sixteen, Merrill had taken up music full time. In 1952, Merrill made her recording debut when she was asked to sing “A Cigarette For Company” with the Earl Hines Band; the song was released on their Xanadu album. Etta Jones made her debut on the same album.
At this time she was married to musician Aaron Sachs. They divorced in 1956.
As a result of the exposure she received from “A Cigarette for Company” and two subsequent singles recorded for the Roost record label, Merrill was signed by Mercury Records for their new EmArcy label.
In 1954, Merrill recorded her first (and to date most acclaimed) LP, an eponymous record featuring legendary jazz trumpet player Clifford Brown and bassist/cellist Oscar Pettiford, among others. It was to be one of Brown’s last recordings, as he was killed in a car accident just two years later. The album was produced and arranged by Quincy Jones, who was then just twenty-one years old.

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