Fay Claassen and the Millennium Jazz Orchestra: Specially Arranged for Fay (2003)
Not only was Frank Sinatra an incomparable singer, he was a smart one too, employing only the finest arrangers (Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Gordon Jenkins, Axel Stordahl) and musicians to bring out the best in every note he sang. On her third album for Jazz Impuls, Fay Claassen takes a cue from Ol’ Blue Eyes, using as her back-up crew the world-class Millennium Jazz Orchestra and commissioning superlative charts by conductor / music director Joan Reinders. Claassen has a handsome mid-range voice, and it’s clear that she has worked hard on her delivery, her pacing and her diction (the program consists of five standards plus tunes by Bill Evans, Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane and Burt Bacharach / Hal David, all sungand often scattedin letter-perfect English).
Claassen has to stay on her toes to avoid being upstaged by the MJO and those sparkling arrangements by Reinders, and it’s to her credit that she is able to hold her own and remain squarely in the spotlight. Claassen is comfortable at any tempo, equally charming on ballads (“Very Early,” “Nature Boy,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “When We Were One”), flag-wavers (“Just One of Those Things,” “Love for Sale,” “Giant Steps”) or anything in between (“But Not for Me,” “Speak Low”). Reinders’ charts combine the buoyancy and brilliance of Riddle or May while leaving ample room for solos, with Jan Wessels’ flugel especially impressive on “Love for Sale” and “Giant Steps.”
Others who help brighten the scenery include pianist Hans Kwakkermaat and bassist Bart Tarenskeen (“Very Early”), tenor Gerlo Hesselink and drummer Niek van Wiggen (“One of Those Things”), Kwakkermaat again (“When We Were Young”), trombonist Jeroen Rol (“Speak Low”) and baritone Job Helmers (“Giant Steps”). But the album was Specially Arranged for Fay, and Ms Claassen returns the compliment by showing on every selection that she’s a talented young singer who is definitely on an upward curve. Reinders’ charts fit her like a glove, and vice versa. Add the MJO and the upshot is one of the better big-band-with-vocalist (or vocalist-with-big-band) albums of the year.
Contact: Stichting Jazz Impuls, Middendijk 61, 7397 ND Nijbroek, The Netherlands. www.jazzimpuls.com; e-mail email@example.com
Track Listing: Very Early; Just One of Those Things; Nature Boy; But Not for Me; Love for Sale; When We Were One; Speak Low; Giant Steps; A House Is Not a Home (59:26).
Personnel: Joan Reinders, conductor, arranger; Fay Claassen, vocals; Willy van Diepen, alto, soprano sax, flute; Gerard Grobben, alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Gerlo Hesselink, tenor, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Martin van der Horst, tenor, soprano sax, clarinet; Job Helmers, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Rini Swinkels, Jan Wessels, Bert Fransen, Erik Hilferink, Herman Nijkamp, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeroen Rol, Henri Gerrits, Gert Nijenbanning, trombone; Eric Westerink, bass trombone; Hans Kwakkernaat, piano; Bart Tarenskeen, bass; Niek van Wiggen, drums.