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Dutch jazz diva spices up pop favourites
YOU'D think a jazz diva like Laura Fygi would go to great lengths to preserve her vocals but the Dutch songbird confesses she has a weakness for - of all things - chilli crab.
"I love it," she purrs over the phone. But wait, aren't all those spices bad for one's voice?
"No, it makes it better!" she replies before bursting into laughter.
The yummy local crustacean dish clearly has done little to ruin things for the 61-year-old - how else would her latest album, Jazz Love, debut at the top of the local jazz charts when it was released in late October?
Specially commissioned by Universal Music Singapore, her 16th studio effort features not only renditions of standards like La Vie En Rose but also covers of radio-friendly pop hits like Richard Marx's Right Here Waiting, Bobby Hebb's Sunny, Alicia Keys's If I Ain't Got You, Sade's Your Love is King/Smooth Operator and more.
Fygi reveals she asked Universal for song suggestions and picked 10 out of the 18 that were sent over for her consideration.
"I was glad to find they still write beautiful songs today just as they did back in the 60s," she says of the final track list.
"The hard part was turning them into my own style but fortunately I have five great musicians that I have been working with for over 23 years."
That includes her saxophone player Jan Menu who also produced the album. "They know what my sound is so they wrote beautiful arrangements ... some bossa, slow waltz, swing; it felt almost like I was recording new songs (and not covers)," Fygi adds.
The only thing she did not want was to sound like a pop singer: "I wanted it to sound like me."
Fygi also reveals Jazz Love was recorded specially for the Asian market and her fans in the region.
"Usually I go into the studio with a theme in mind - it can be anything from the Great American Songbook to Latin to French - so this one is a compilation of hits that were big in Asia," she explains.
Of all the songs, La Vie En Rose is Fygi's favourite because it was a tune she grew up with. "My mother used to love the song and she was a fan of Edith Piaf so I've been listening to it since I was a little girl."
Two versions are included on Jazz Love - one in English which Universal Music requested for, and the other in its original French language which Fygi has been singing for years ("I recorded it in 15 minutes!").
The trickiest song to tackle was Right Here Waiting: "We worked on it for a long time because Richard Marx's version is very grand but we wanted ours to sound smaller and more intimate."
A familiar face in Singapore - Fygi was here just last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her music career with a concert - she can't wait to return again to meet her fans. "It's being discussed right now and I might be back next spring," she reveals.
We'll start preparing the chilli crabs now.
- Jazz Love is out now on digital formats as well as on compact disc from CD-Rama