Fay Claassen

Red, Hot & Blue

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Fay Claassen has emerged as the one of the promising up-and-coming jazz vocalists in Europe. A native of the Netherlands who studied with a number of excellent jazz vocal teachers, this gifted alto's singing is remarkably accent-free on this date, while she enunciates her words clearly (often a problem for vocalists who learn English as a second language) with a beautiful tone and inventive phrasing. Her fifth CD focuses exclusively on the works of Cole Porter, all of the pieces being well-known standards. In spite of this formidable challenge, she finds fresh ground in her interpretations, boosted by Michael Abene's excellent arrangements and a strong rhythm section (pianist Olaf Polziehn, bassist Ingmar Heller and drummer Hans Dekker). She excels in the dissonant, dramatic first section of "I Get a Kick out of You," sounding simultaneously playful and occasionally, a bit raspy, though she does have trouble with a few words ("you" comes out "Jew" at one point), while the instrumental mid-section is decidedly uptempo. "Ridin' High" is probably the least familiar song in this collection, delivered here with a brilliant reharmonization and some superb scatting. It's hard not to enjoy the blues-drenched "Love for Sale," with Claasen vamping it up at the snail's pace tempo. Her wild unison scatting with Polziehn's piano give "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" a rather unusual twist.

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