Fay Claassen / WDR Big Band


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The sixth CD for Dutch jazz vocalist Fay Claassen teams her with vaunted arranger Michael Abene and the vaunted WDR Big Band-Cologne. They do a collection of standards, covers of pop tunes, Brazilian music, straight-ahead jazz, and ballads. What is remarkable for this team is the way Abene's charts work in consistent counterpoint with Claassen's lyrics, as if they are deep in close-up conversation. But even more than the give and take of vocalist vis-à-vis the instrumental component, Claassen's singing is outstanding in subtle, less demonstrative ways. When she interprets Betty Carter's famous tune "Tight" with a slight Billie Holiday tinge or a light bossa take of Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," she changes the music while making it her own, sans excess. It's that distinction with a difference -- but not over the top -- that brands Claassen a class act. She's also stretching beyond just covering jazz standards, interpreting songs by such diverse writers as Louis Jordan, Miriam Makeba, Joni Mitchell, and Björk. Perhaps still obscure worldwide, Fay Claassen remains one of the very best singers in Europe, influenced by music on American shores.

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