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One of the best of a strong crop of young British jazz singers, Claire Martin has been on the scene for over ten years. Actually it's not clear she is a jazz singer, but that's another discussion. One thing that makes sense is her repertoire. She used to sing show tunes from the '30s and '40s and probably still does occasionally, but lately she's been recording the better pop songs of the last forty years (the Beatles and after). She believes in these songs and gets inside them. She is not swing oriented, but her time is superb.
She stays close to the original on Laura Nyro's "He's a Runner," allowing the song and the arrangement to do much of the work but rendering it with her own downhearted, blues-informed slant. She finally admits to herself the guy is history and abstractly considers the devastating effect of his departure. The original was more a declaration of his lack of character. An example of her ability to renovate a song: Al Kooper's "More Than You'll Ever Know." The original had a late '60s macho feel ("I could be president of General Motors")the singer momentarily dropped his guard to admit he cared but let it be known it wasn't his usual style. Martin slows it down and gives it a bona fide vulnerability but remains aware of the liaison's precariousness.
Martin sounds like she can sing the blues but chooses not to on this CD, preferring ambiguous, blues-related numbers such as "Up from the Skies" she can interpret with her modern sensibility. Her forward momentum does not allow a tune's repetitiveness to be felt.
On some tunes ("Shadowville," "He's Runner," "Man in the Station"a duet with John Martynand "More than I Can Bear") she successfully integrates a Country feeling, overcoming some trivial lyrics on a couple of them. Here's hoping Country does not become her predominant interest.
Arranger Paul Stacey comes in for much of the credit. He arranges the tunes with an open feeling and rhythmic subtlety that allows Martin to bring them into her present.
Perfect Alibiis Martin's best CD so far.
Track Listing: How Can I Be Sure?; Man in the Station; Up from the Skies; Inspired Insanity; People Make the World Go Round; Shadowville; Strangers Now; More Than You'll Ever Know; Over by Allenby; More Than I Can Bear; He's a Runner; Wailing Wall.
Personnel: Claire Martin: vocals; John Martyn: vocal; Paul Stacey: keyboards, synth, guitars, dobro, arranger, backup vocal; Andy Wallace, Jason Rebello, Robin Aspland: keyboards; Anthony Kerr: vibes; Arnie Somogyi: bass, arranger; Jeremy Stacey, Louis Jardim, Matthew Skeeping, Andrew Newmark, Ian Thomas: drums; Charlotte Glasson: arranger; orchestra.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.