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Rhythms & Rhymes

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Album Review

Contrary to what the more Manhattan-centric individuals in the jazz world would have us believe, European jazz vocalists don't have to record in the Big Apple to be legitimate — a singer can find plenty of first-class improvisers to work with in places like Stockholm, Paris, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam. So even if Fay Claassen had never crossed the Atlantic Ocean and opted to work in Europe exclusively, the Dutch singer would have a lot to be proud of. That said, Claassen did herself a nice favor when she traveled to the New York City/Northern New Jersey area in the early 2000s and recorded her second album, Rhythms and Rhymes, which was released in Holland on the Jazz 'N Pulz label. The American musicians who join Claassen on this CD include, among others, Toots Thielemans, guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Kenny Werner, trombonist Steve Davis, and vibist/marimba player Joe Locke — an impressive cast, certainly, and one that obviously understands where Claassen is coming from as a singer. Although Claassen swings, she isn't an aggressive or forceful sort of vocalist — her post-bop outlook is urbane, sophisticated, elegant, and refined. And thankfully, she has sympathetic accompaniment whether she is turning her attention to Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away," Michel Legrand's "Once Upon a Summertime," or Miles Davis' "Seven Steps to Heaven." Claassen sings in perfect English most of the time, although she is equally expressive when she detours into French on Sting's "La Belle Dame Sans Regrets," and Portuguese on Ivan Lins' "Comecar de Novo." Clearly, Rhythms and Rhymes is a solid and memorable document of Claassen's visit to the northeastern United States.


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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Rhythms & Rhymes, Fay Claassen
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