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Jazz Vocalist Mharlyn Merritt Pays Tribute To Forgotten Jazz Diva With New Album

Jazz Vocalist Mharlyn Merritt  Pays Tribute To Forgotten Jazz Diva With New Album

Courtesy Destiny Cox


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The vocalist Dakota Staton—who has died in Manhattan aged 76—is hardly noted in the jazz history books and rarely mentioned by jazz fans.
—John Fordham, The Guardian
Mharlyn Merritt
Jazz vocalist Mharlyn Merritt is excited to announce the September 9, 2023 indie digital release of her new classic jazz/pop LP, in homage to pre-eminent vocalist Dakota Staton, entitled: I Owe It to Dakota, available on all major streaming platforms including Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes and iHeart Radio.

Dakota Staton made an indelible mark on the music scene in the 1950’s with her classically trained voice and unique ability to crossover the gap between jazz and pop with integrity. Yet 16 years after Dakota Staton’s death at age 76 she remains virtually unknown.

Classically trained, Dakota 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.

Ms. Staton has influenced female vocalists as divergent as Nancy Wilson and Chaka Khan by single-handedly bridging the gap between jazz and pop music. Sadly however, John Fordham stated in his obituary for The Guardian: “The vocalist Dakota Staton—who has died in Manhattan aged 76—is hardly noted in the jazz history books and rarely mentioned by jazz fans “

“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.

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 when she was a teenager, but Ms. Merritt laughs when she says she has no recollection of the event.

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.”

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 artists from the Disco Era such as Blue Magic and Fat Larry’s Band. With the band Messenger, Mharlyn opened for world-famous acts such as, Hugh Masakela, Richard Belzer and Eddie Palmieri. Mharlyn has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is the author of the novel, The Actor.

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Track Listing

Make it Easy on Yourself - The Late Late Show- What Do You See in Her? - Broadway - Invitation - When Lights are Low - When Sunny Gets Blue


Additional Instrumentation

Doug Hirlinger is featured on Vibraphone NOT drums on this album

Album information

Title: I Owe It to Dakota | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Honeybunch Records


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