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Sings Two Portraits of Chet Baker

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Album Review

Dutch jazz vocalist Fay Claassen's tribute in honor of the late Chet Baker's 75th birthday is an impressive achievement. Gifted with a beautiful voice, she captures the nuances of the material selected. This two-CD set is divided into two sections. The first disc covers songs from the Gerry Mulligan Quartet that featured Baker, with Claassen singing wordless vocals in place of Baker's trumpet. The substitution is not a gimmick and quite effective, as she has a very melodic voice that blends well with baritone saxophonist Jan Menu (who arranged and transcribed the original recordings for this date). "Line for Lyons" (misspelled "Line for Lions" on this release) is heard in two versions, a quartet and a shorter, lyrical duet with Menu. She proves very playful in "Jeru" and swings just fine with Menu sitting out "Godchild," backed by bassist Hein Van de Geyn and drummer John Engels' brushes. There are some reservations about these reworkings of the old quartet repertoire. It is somewhat difficult to sit through the entire session in one hearing, as it is easy to eventually get tired of the wordless vocals; while Menu's technique is good, he has a bit of a harsher sound and isn't quite to Mulligan's level in executing his ideas. Disc two focuses mainly on music that Chet Baker recorded as a vocalist and leader after leaving Mulligan, with Claassen effectively interpreting the lyrics to each piece. The band changes slightly, with pianist Karel Boehlee and trumpeter Jan Wessels taking the place of Menu's baritone sax, with Van de Geyn providing all of the arrangements. Although "My Funny Valentine" is considered overly recorded by singers, Claassen's sensitive, emotional treatment is well worth hearing. The brisk rendition of "Look for the Silver Lining" is upbeat, with marvelous playing behind the vocalist. But it's hard to top her duet with Boehlee of "Blame It on My Youth" to close this fine tribute to the gifted but troubled Chet Baker.


Born: 1969 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Like Soesja Citroen -- one of Holland's best-known jazz singers -- Fay Claassen is a Dutch jazz vocalist who has no problem getting around in the English language. Claassen has brought a slice trace of a Dutch accent to her post-bop recordings, but only a slight trace -- and she obviously has a great understanding of the English-language material she has embraced (which has ranged from Tin Pan Alley standards to Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs to lyrics that Cassandra Wilson wrote for Miles Davis'...
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Sings Two Portraits of Chet Baker, Fay Claassen
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