Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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PERRIN, Mimi

(b Jeannine Quintard, 2 February 1926, Saint-Maurice, France; d 16 November 2010, Paris) Singer, lyricist, translator. She was the founder, lead singer and lyricist of the French vocalese sextet Les Double Six. She was trained in classical piano as a child, got a master's degree in English at the Sorbonne, taught English for two years, then worked as a jazz pianist in the Paris clubs of the ‘50s, also singing in Blossom Dearie’s Parisian vocal group Les Blue Stars.

Inspired by the Lambert-Hendricks-Ross trio (see Jon Hendricks), she created Les Double Six in 1959. The name of the group refers to their use of multi-track recording to mimic the sound of instrumental groups, often big bands. Among the alumni were singers Ward Swingle, later founder of the Swingle Singers; Christiane Legrand, sister of composer/songwriter Michel Legrand; Eddy Louiss (also pianist/organist), Bernard Lubat (also a drummer), Monique Guérin (who later had a singing career as Monique Aldebert). They were accompanied by notable French jazzmen, notably trumpeter Roger Guérin (Monique’s then husband), Pierre Michelot or Michel Gaudry on bass, Daniel Humair on drums. Albums included Les Double Six Meet Quincy Jones '60, The Double Six of Paris: Swingin' Singin' '62, Dizzy Gillespie + The Double Six Of Paris '63 (with Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke), The Double Six Of Paris Sing Ray Charles '64. They toured internationally, performed at New York’s Town Hall.

Perrin’s French lyrics, fit to famous jazz arrangements and instrumental solos reproduced vocally, are unique in the way they strive to echo the sounds of the instruments (e.g. words starting with t’s and d’s evoking the attack of the trumpet section), all the more remarkable as French is a mellower and less accented language than English.

Perrin disbanded the Double Six in 1966, as tuberculosis, from which she had suffered since 1949, curtailed her singing. She then launched into a 40-year career as a translator of English books (numerous science-fiction novels, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, twelve John Le Carré novels, autobiographies by Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Quincy Jones), displaying the same gift for rhythmic language that was so striking in her vocalese lyrics.