Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Throughout her productive and wide-ranging career, Mercedes Hall has consistently delighted audiences with her voice, her fearlessness at taking risks, and her diverse repertoire. She infuses her music with the spirit of jazz, improvising, scatting and making each song her own, being a true stylist. I feel that I have my own individual style because I listen to everyone in all genres, says Mercedes. I've sung jazz, blues, R&B and Brazilian music. I take chances in my singing and use my voice as an instrument. Singing is joyful to me and I don't restrict myself.
Mercedes spirit and joy is evident throughout her second release as a leader, so aptly titled, Pure Emotion. She uses a core group that features pianist Glafkos Kontemeniotis, who takes the lead in showcasing the trio as an integral part of the project. Among her guests are the jazz luminary Jerry Dodgion on flute and alto saxophone, percussionist Bashiri Johnson and the extraordinary pianist-arranger Arturo O'Farrill. Mercedes Hall is heard in memorable form on 14 well-chosen songs. The program includes Ghost Of A Chance which alternates between three tempos, an unusual samba version of What Is This Thing Called Love, a beautiful arrangement of The Masquerade Is Over, the relatively obscure Satan Never Sleeps, an adventurous interpretation of Thelonious Monk's Well You Needn't and a unique interpretation of You've Changed.
Pure Emotion is the result of a close friendship with the late arranger/composer Chico O'Farrill and his family. I wrote the lyrics to Chico's music at their request. I went to Arturo to see if he'd like to redo it and I was so thrilled when he agreed. He envisioned the tune as a bossa-nova, and arranged it and played piano on the piece. Since this album is full of emotion and passion, we decided to name the CD Pure Emotion with the blessing of Arturo and Chico's widow, Lupe O'Farrill.
One of 13 children, Mercedes Hall was born in Boston to a very musical family. I came out of the womb singing! Studying piano as a child, it wasn't long before she realized that her voice was her true instrument, along with her penchant for performing from an early age. After an early marriage which produced a son, the actor Anthony Michael Hall, she ventured far beyond Boston to work professionally, taking her son along with her. After performing across country including stints in Las Vegas and Arizona, she spent a year in Los Angeles, making a name for herself, garnering rave reviews including from world renowned jazz critic Leonard Feather who wrote in the LA Times: Mercedes Hall is an ANOMALY... her sound quality, phrasing and feeling are more likely to conjure up memories of Dinah Washington or Aretha Franklin...There is nothing simulated or contrived about the soulful conviction and intensity she brings to a set of contemporary songs. Playing top jazz/ R&B venues gaining recognition through press and live appearances on national television including many guest spots on the Merv Griffin Show, Mercedes worked with great jazz musicians including trumpeter Red Rodney, bassist John Heard and pianist John Hammond to name a few. The Hollywood Reporter stated, Mercedes Hall, a wicked generator of moods, has superb phrasing and musicianship.
Eager for a change Mercedes headed to New York, diving right into the music scene and continuing to play with great musicians most notably in her working trio was virtuoso bassist, Richard Davis. She quickly built a name for herself, The New York Post exclaimed, Hall has a dazzling range, cultured voice and stellar presence. Mercedes was the name act when the world famous Copacabana reopened and she made it her home base as well as performing at multiple NYC venues. Mercedes also appeared in shows at Lincoln Center, Off-Broadway and did studio and television work. She sang the National Anthem several times at Madison Square Garden for the NY Rangers Stanley Cup Playoff games.
In the early 1980s Hall stopped performing for awhile, turning her attention to managing her son's emerging acting career, starting a successful second marriage and giving birth to a daughter (singer Mary C). Heeding the advice given her years earlier by the famous vocal guru, Boston's own Dante Pavone, who was very impressed by her natural ability, she began teaching privately in New York City attracting students as far away as Asia and Africa.
Mercedes became more active by the mid '80's performing at various New York City clubs. During which time Mercedes became the first recipient of the MAC Award ( Manhattan Association of Clubs ) for Best Jazz Vocalist in addition to New York's Back Stage BISTRO Award for Outstanding Female Vocalist. She also appeared in the hit film The Breakfast Club, fittingly, as Anthony Michael Hall's mom, and she was the featured voice on Edelweiss/Atlantic Records quirky club smash Bring Me Edelweiss.
While performing one night at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, Mercedes caught the ears of Alma and Lee Berk, the founders of Berklee School Of Music, who immediately offered her a fulltime position at Berklee. She reluctantly turned it down due to her busy teaching schedule in New York City but agreed to return for a two day Vocal Clinic which concluded with a successful concert at the Berklee Performance Center. Ms. Hall imparted many practical insights to our students who attended our vocal clinic and were thoroughly entranced. She demonstrated both by her performance and years of experience the wisdom and congeniality so essential to good teaching. Her ability to perform in virtually all contemporary musical styles enabled Ms. Hall to reach home to the diverse Berklee College of Music student body. - Kenneth Greenhouse, Chair/Voice Department/Berklee College of Music - Boston.
On Mercedes first release, 'Somewhere In The Night', her passion is in abundant evidence. Her soulful, expressive voice brings the songs vividly to life, borne by sparkling jazz-tinged pop and R&B arrangements. Highlights include the pop/R&B crossover ballad 'Closer We Get To Love'; the hypnotically sexy first single, 'Could've Been'; and the Bacharach/David classic 'Walk On By' on which Hall demonstrates how she can make even a well-known song seem definitively her own. Mercedes co-wrote eight of the album's fourteen songs. Walk On By and Mercedes own Could've Been hit the TOP 40 Radio Charts across the country on the AC (Adult Contemporary) and Smooth Jazz formats. Director Producer Garry Marshall chose #14 Track on this album, Who Needs A Miracle as the closing song for his Paramount Pictures Film: Dear God soundtrack. Her version of Walk on By became part of the OCEAN DRIVE BEST OF AMERICAN FM JAZZ CD. She joined the elite company of such artists as Patty Austin, The Rippingtons, Jon Lucien, Michael McDonald, Dave Grusin etc. on this extraordinary European release. Mercedes can sing and she can perform!... we need a performer like her on our playlist! -Radio Consultant, Mike McVay of McVay Media.
Now with the release of Pure Emotion and successful engagements this past summer at New York's Jazz Standard and her return at Cape Cod Jazz Festival, Mercedes is very enthusiastic about the future. There are plans for a DVD so her exciting performance style can be documented and enjoyed by all.
Mercedes continues to teach privately in NYC and also plans to perform at many more jazz festivals and tour around the world. I love performing; it is such an extension of who I am. As Scott Yanow, jazz critic stated, She is not a performer that one can forget easily, for Mercedes Hall is quite unique, a jazz stylist who has created her own category.