I'm happy to report new activity from one of my favorite jazz vocalists, Claire Martin. Her new album is a duo recording with pianist (and vocalist) Richard Rodney Bennett. Despite the fact that Martin has released ten albums and a compilation since 1992, she still needs an introduction to even so-called jazz vocal enthusiasts. The British vocalist has recorded for Linn Records and has placed regularly on "best of" jazz surveys, sometimes within the top ten. She has won Best Vocalist honors in the British Jazz Awards several times.
Although Martin usually performs with a full group (including a rhythm section), this album is prepared for a cabaret-type performance, which indeed occurred in September, 2005 in Greenwich Village. In a rare New York appearance, the singer was accompanied by Bennett, who also provided all of the arrangements.
Claire Martin is clearly a musical offspring of the 1950s cool vocal style of jazz. Her recordings indicate less of an aggressive style and more the influence of my own two personal benchmarks of the era, Chris Connor and June Christy. The pieces selected for this album are indeed cabaret-oriented and consist of tunes that are not readily identifiable from previous recordings. Listeners who've got to know what they're listening to may be disappointed, but not with the delivery and execution. Those folks would be best off with vocal duet numbers (eg. "When Lights Are Low," "The Very Thought Of You," "We'll Be Together Again") for more familiarity.
On his vocals, Richard Rodney Bennett visits the Nat King Cole Trio songbook ("I Was A Little Lonely," I Keep Going Back to Joe's") and others, while Martin is content to dazzle with songs like "My Mood is You," "What I Was Warned About," "World Weary" and a super version of "Any Place I Hang My Hat(s) Is Home."
Personnel: Claire Martin: vocals; Richard Rodney Bennett: piano, vocals.