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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

We end our program today with something new from the world of jazz. Here's musician and DAY TO DAY contributor David Was.

DAVID WAS reporting:

Generally speaking, when singers born outside of the United States have a go at American musical idioms like jazz, the results are akin to hearing Placido Domingo free-styling with 50 Cent.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: It's like they say about translating poetry: You lose only one thing - the poetry. Happily, such truisms are meant to be defied, and Paris-born Laika Fatien could almost be mistaken for a homegrown disciple of avatars like Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn.

(Soundbite of song from album, Look At Me Now)

Ms. LAIKA FATIEN (Singer): (Singing) You're gonna love me on the (unintelligible) right now

WAS: Her new album, Look At Me Now, on Body and Soul Records, is a testament to that universal quotient called soul, a quality Mademoiselle Fatien has in abundance - that and an uncanny ability to suppress her native accent and sound like she grew up speaking English in Cleveland or Chicago.

(Soundbite of song from album, Look At Me Now)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) You came along and everything started to hum. Still it's a real good bet the best is yet to come.

WAS: In fact, her roots are all over the place. Born in 1968 of an Ivory Coast father and Spanish-Moroccan-Jewish mother, she's perhaps perfectly suited to adopt the cultural inflections of jazz, which shares a mixed West African and European heritage itself.

(Soundbite of song from album, Look At Me Now)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) I hear music, mighty fine music, morning breeze up there, (unintelligible) milkman on the stair. (Unintelligible) that's music…

WAS: Not only that, Ms. Fatien has distinguished herself as an actress on stage and screen in France, appearing in films by the likes of Claude Lelouch and in musical theater productions of the music of Duke Ellington and Hector Villa-Lobos(ph). Her dramatic gifts enliven even her most dubious repertoire choices, like a ballad reading of Eleanor Rigby, which in lesser hands might veer toward the bathetic.

(Soundbite of song, Eleanor Rigby)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) Look at all the lonely…

WAS: Her restraint on that song - and in general - make one mindful of Shirley Horn or Nina Simone.

(Soundbite of song, Eleanor Rigby)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been…

WAS: A true triple-threat, she's also responsible for several lyrics on the album, which she added to instrumental compositions by tenor saxmen Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson.

(Soundbite of song from album, Look At Me Now)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) Dipping out of the sky, floating, dreaming (unintelligible)…

WAS: And on hoary old standards like Frank Loesser's I Hear Music…

(Soundbite of song, I Hear Music)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) There's my favorite melody…

WAS: She reinvents the cadences and notes of the melody in a way that seems natural and unforced. This is not jazz for jazz's sake when you discard the original song for the sake of variety along.

(Soundbite of song from album, Look At Me Now)

Ms. FATIEN: (Singing) …Sing this song.

WAS: Laika Fatien makes songs fit her own voice and persona, achieving the elusive ideal of self-expression that is part and parcel with the American jazz aesthetic.

BRAND: Musician David Was reviewing new music from singer Laika Fatien. Her new recording is called Look At Me Now.

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