I OWE IT TO DAKOTA
Vocalist Mharlyn Merritt is excited to announce the September 2023 release of her new Classic Jazz/Pop LP, I Owe It to Dakota, available on all streaming platforms, with limited special edition CDs available on Mharlyn Merritt’s website, https://www.mharlynmerritt.com/.
The latest single to drop from the LP is the soulful ballad, "What Do You See in Her?" written by Hal David and Frank Wheldon. The stunning performance video in support of What Do You See in Her? has already started to trend on YouTube (https://youtu.be/i2wfx8_wl-U)
The Dakota in the album title is classically trained jazz vocalist Dakota Staton. Ms. Staton gained international prominence with her 1957 debut album The Late Late Show on Capitol Records. Even as Dakota Staton’s star began to rise it started to fade because of the shift in the music industry from the sultry Jazz diva to the perky Pop princess. Dakota took no notice, planting her feet firmly in both camps, while infusing both with a hot bluesy flavor. She recorded nearly 30 albums on several major labels. She has influenced female vocalists as divergent as Nancy Wilson and Chaka Khan by single-handedly bridging the gap between jazz and pop music - yet 16 years after her death at age 76 she remains virtually unknown.
“I grew up listening to Dakota Staton. I was so proud that she was from Pittsburgh. As a Philly girl I felt kinship with her being from the same State. In a way that is why I felt so strongly about working on a project that paid homage to her impact as a vocalist, I had to overcome a great deal to get this project made, which makes it even more precious to me.” Ms. Merritt stated.
Nothing can stop Mharlyn Merritt when her mind is made up. After being hit by a car while crossing the street at age 66, Mharlyn endured several surgeries, and she spent three years in physical therapy. To look at her now, an energetic, fit 73-year-old it seems almost impossible to believe. Her voice and her spirit remain strong: “I can’t afford to be pessimistic. It is never too late. I believe that. I live that.”
Mharlyn Merritt is the daughter of the late legendary Jazz bassist/Composer Jymie Merritt who worked with many A-List Jazz artists including Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday. When Ms. Merritt was six months old, Billie Holiday bottle fed her between sets when Ms. Holiday was performing at the Club Harlem in Atlantic City. Mharlyn’s mother related this story to her many years later, but Ms. Merritt laughs when she says she has no recollection of the event.
Ms. Merritt’s musical family includes her brother, Mike Merritt, a world-class bassist in his own right, who became a familiar face to late night TV viewers as part of the outstanding band on Conan O’ Brien’s talk shows. Mharlyn is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Jazz Performance. Her voice has been part of backing vocals for numerous artists from the Disco Era such as Blue Magic and Fat Larry’s Band. With the band Messenger Mharlyn opened for many world-famous acts such as, Hugh Masakela, Richard Belzer and Eddie Palmieri.
The digital LP, I Owe It to Dakota, was co-produced by bassist, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, who received Philadelphia’s Benny Golson Award.
Personnel on I Owe It to Dakota Include:
Piano - Farid Baron Nazir Ebo – Drums
Guitar - Jake Morelli Doug Hirlinger – vibraphone
Drums - Nazir Ebo Elliot Levin - Flute
Bass – Richard Hill and Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Recorded at Retro City Recording Studios, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 2023
Video for ‘What Do You See In Her?” Directed/Shot by Destiny Cox at Rittenhouse Sound Works, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 2023