Some jazz enthusiasts believe that if a singer grows up in a country where English isn't the primary language, he/she is at an artistic disadvantage where jazz singing is concerned. But truth be told, Western Europe is full of jazz vocalists who have no problem singing in perfect English; Sweden's Jeanette Lindström and Holland's Soesja Citroen immediately come to mind. Besides, there is no law stating that jazz singing has to be in English 100-percent of the time; in fact, a bilingual approach works well for Barbara Balzan on Tender Awakening, which finds the Swiss vocalist performing jazz in both English and French (mostly English). Balzan's English is excellent, and she is equally convincing when she sings in French. Although jazz is a major part of what Balzan does on Tender Awakening, it would be inaccurate to call her a totally straight-ahead jazz purist; this 2004 release is best described as a mixture of jazz and European cabaret. Of course, Balzan never jumped on a soapbox and screamed about how much of a jazz purist she was -- that's Wynton Marsalis' specialty -- and however one categorizes this album, Balzan brings a lot of depth to introspective offerings like "Attitude of Mind," "Seven and Nine" and "You're My Everything" (all of which she either wrote or co-wrote). Standards are not a priority on Tender Awakening; although Balzan opens the CD with the familiar "My One and Only Love," most of the material was written by Balzan and/or pianist Marco Dreifuss. Anyone who expects Balzan to scat sing her way through a lot of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk standards will be disappointed; Tender Awakening is, however, a memorable collection of torch singing that both jazz and cabaret enthusiasts should be aware of.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson