Lisette Spinnler

In Between

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American jazz enthusiasts should be thankful that many of the public school systems in Continental Western Europe have excellent foreign language programs. Although English isn't the primary language in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Denmark, many people growing up in those countries become totally fluent in English -- and that includes a lot of European jazz singers, who might live in a place where German or Dutch is the primary language but have no problem expressing themselves with English lyrics. Getting around in English isn't a problem for Swiss jazz vocalist Lisette Spinnler, who favors a very spiritual post-bop approach on her first album, In Between. Spinnler sings with a Swiss accent, but her accent isn't overwhelming; she's very understandable -- and if anything, her accent is a plus because it helps gives her performances character. There are many jazz CDs that can be described as "hard bop/post-bop" -- they are right on the hard bop/post-bop border and are relevant to both. But this 2003 date is very much of a post-bop mindset, and the type of spirituality that has been such a big part of post-bop expression over the years asserts itself on impressionistic performances of material ranging from Mongo Santamaria's "Afro-Blue" to several selections that offer melodies by Oliver Friedli (the album's pianist) and lyrics by Spinnler. Many of TCB's straight-ahead jazz releases have favored a warhorses-only policy -- that is, the artists confine themselves to standards that have been beaten to death over the years -- and the fact that Friedli and Spinnler do so much writing on In Between is a definite plus. By 2003 standards, In Between isn't groundbreaking; Spinnler is essentially rehashing the '60s and '70s. But she's good at what she does and makes sure that In Between is a solid, worthwhile debut.

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