Jelena Ana Milcetic a.k.a. Helen Merrill - reviews

Schwann Inside

[…]Even though vastly underappreciated jaz vocalist Helen Merrill was bom in New York (in 1930), her parents were Croatian immigrants who not only listened to tunes of their new country but also brought with them songs of the old. A big band singer in the late '40s who made her mark during the cooljazz era of the '50s, Merrill brings both influences of her youth together on her sumptuous album Jelena Ana Milcetic a.k.a. Helen Merrill, self-described as a "mini autobiography." It spotlights Croatian traditional tunes graced by her smoke and-velvet vocals and spiced by such instrumentation as the accordion (performed by keyboardist Gil Goldstein) as well as reminiscent American standards such as Wayfarin' Strangers and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child rendered with the heartfelt sensibility of longing for home.
Bookended by Croatian gems, it's an intimate CD, with pockets of melancholic reflection that Merrill visits with emotional depth. Case in point: the moving cover of Judy Collins's My Father. Her simpatico band supports her soulful joumey. Bassist George Mraz (a Czech native) and drummer Terry Clarke (a Canadian with musical ties to Croatia) rhythmically undergird the proceedings while Sir Roland Hanna and Torrie Zito contribute fine piano backing (the fommer on Among My Souvenirs, the latter on Nobody Knows). The ace of the sessions is soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who sweetly swings through several tunes, including Long, Long Ago. He also soars through the bright trad Croatian folk number Tanac, joined by two (uncredited) musicians playing the sopila, a nasal-sounding oboe-like Croatian wind instrument.

Dan Ouellette (Schwann Inside, 12/2000)


Qui prend vraiment ici la parole ? Jelena Ana Milcetic ou Helen Merrill ? Le Kyrie de Tomislav Uhlik ouvrant l'album, Sopila qui en marque le centre et Ti Si Rajski Cvijet en guise de conclusion semblent vendre la mèche. Il ne faut pas se fier aux apparences, Jelena Ana Milcetic aurait-elle pu chanter de façon aussi déchirante le My Father de Judy Collins, Wayfarin' Stranger ou La Paloma si, en tant qu'Helen Merrill, elle n'avait côtoyé Clifford Brown, John Lewis, Gil Evans ? Et Steve Lacy qui l'accompagne, commentant, adoucissant cette mise au jour de racines devenues douloureuses. La famille de la première est d'origine bosniaque, la seconde prit naissance à New York sous le double patronage d'Earl Hines et de Quincy Jones. C'est l'exacte superposition de ces deux facettes d'une même personnalité qui lui permet d'atteindre un semblable niveau d'émotion, le savoir-faire de l'une autorisant l'autre à mettre son âme à nu. Sans exhibitionnisme ni fausse pudeur. Avec l'attentive complicité de Roland Hanna, Gil Goldstein, George Mraz, Terry Clarke, Torrie Zito, Dominic Cortese, dont les accents d'accordéon déchirants derrière une Helen Merrill sublime font de I'll Take You Home Again, Katleen un chef-d'œuvre.

Ressort-on intact de l'écoute d'un semblable album ?

Alain Tercinet (Jazzman 55, 02/2000)