All too many jazz vocalists are so infatuated with themselves that their need to flex and strut becomes more important than the song. French vocalist Laika Fatien (she goes by her first name only and sings in English on the album) is quite capable of taking daring leaps, but she's only interested in doing so when the song demands it, not when the whim overtakes her. For her it's always about the lyric; Fatien's great strength is in digging her way to the root of the song, allowing her natural abilities to take it from there, and then giving it her all. On the gloomy, stark "Where Are the Words," Fatien is practically subdued, her soulful delivery riding just above pianist Pierre de Bethman's bluesy tones, together conveying the song's heartrending story as it asks to be told. Similarly, on her cover of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," Fatien sheds the original arrangement entirely and strips the song down to its core; its loneliness is quite evident in her poignant, minimalist re-think of the classic. But Look at Me Now! -- which became a hit in Europe two years before its U.S. release -- isn't all about sultriness by any means. A song like "The Best Is Yet to Come," having been recorded by countless others, demands a certain swing and Fatien has no trouble delivering it, with saxman David El Malek providing melodic counterpoint. And on "Zigaboogaloo," Fatien and her quintet are practically giddy with enjoyment. None of this is to suggest that her preference for measured vocalizing disallows her to take off: on Wayne Shorter's "This Is For Albert Ayler," she pays appropriate tribute to the song's subject by bending and stretching every which way, remarkably without ever losing sight of the intimacy that defines her approach.
AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin