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Specially Arranged for Fay

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Album Review

Although Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, Dutch jazz vocalists generally prefer to sing in the same language as most Swedish, German, Norwegian, and Austrian jazz vocalists: English. It isn't that jazz singing cannot work well in other languages; it can sound great in the romance languages, and there have been some amazing examples of Swedish vocalists performing jazz interpretations of traditional Scandinavian folk songs. Nonetheless, English remains the primary language among European jazz singers, and it's a language that Dutch singer Fay Claassen gets around in nicely on her third album, Specially Arranged for Fay. This CD finds Claassen joining forces with the Millennium Jazz Orchestra, a Dutch big band. Joan Reinders serves as conductor/arranger, and the arrangements are tasteful (if conventional) on standards that range from Burt Bacharach's "A House Is Not a Home" to Bill Evans' "Very Early" to Kurt Weill's "Speak Low." At times, one hears slight traces of a Dutch accent when Claassen sings, but that's all they are — slight traces. Claassen is consistently understandable, and it's obvious that she has an impressively strong command of the English language. The CD's greatest flaw is its excess of overdone Tin Pan Alley warhorses; while George Gershwin's "But Not For Me" and Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things" are great songs, they're also songs that have been beaten to death over the years — and Claassen doesn't bring anything new or different to them. Thankfully, she isn't the sort of jazz singer who has an "all-warhorses-all-the-time" policy; Rhythms and Rhymes, Claassen's second album, offers more surprises and is more adventurous in its choice of material. But even though Specially Arranged for Fay isn't her best release, it paints a generally attractive, if imperfect, picture of the talented Netherlands resident.


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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Specially Arranged for Fay, Fay Claassen
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