This stylish tribute to the late and legendary American songstress Shirley Horn, originally released in 2007, captures an intimate and more mature sound from Martin.
Re-issued on CD in 2011, He never mentioned love sees the UK's finest Jazz singer investigate songs memorably performed by her greatest influence, with no traces of borrowing or imitation.
Mojo described it as 'Martin's best album', no small praise considering her award-winning discography.
A perfect match...
I heard Shirley Horn's first album, ‘Embers and Ashes’, on a visit to New York City in 1964. I shall never forget the moment when I put the needle down on the disc and heard Shirley singing and playing He Never Mentioned Love, which I had chosen because it was unfamiliar and intriguing. I had never heard of the song, nor of Miss Horn.
Here was a lovely, confiding, gentle voice, telling a touching story of youthful heartbreak; the piano played four beautiful, steady chords in every single bar right through to the end of the song; there was only one simple chorus, no vocal arabesques, no pianistic arabesques, no melodrama and no display, yet the track is perfection.
This was the album which Miles Davis heard, and which made him refuse to play at the Village Vanguard unless this unknown singer-pianist was booked to play opposite him.
I probably heard every note that Shirley recorded from then on. I saw her perform many times. We became good friends, and she even used sometimes to cook dinner for me at her house in Washington, D.C., when I was in the neighbourhood, refusing to sit down at the table and eat with her husband Shep and me. She used to have a little drink and make sure we had enough of her excellent cooking. But I never got over the fact that I was in the presence of a great musician.
Everything that could reasonably have been said about Shirley's work was written by the late Joel E. Siegel, who managed her for a while, and who was largely responsible for her re-emergence from quiet domesticity in the 1980s. He was a close and important friend, not only of Shirley's, but of Claire Martin's and of mine. Joel was possibly the most perceptive, knowledgeable and articulate of any writer who ever discussed the art of the jazz singer. He wrote the liner notes for seven of Shirley's albums.
One night in 1992, I was in Glasgow, Scotland, and I was checking out a concert hall where I was going to be working. The name of the artist who was appearing that night was unknown to me, since I don't live over there. It was Claire Martin.
In the twenty-eight years since I had first heard Shirley, I had listened to a great many new jazz singers, good, indifferent and awful. I was told that Miss Martin was ‘the British Anita O'Day’. I was expecting a lot of vocal trickery and Sweet Georgia Brown. There was only one Anita, and she was a wizard.
When the concert began, onto the stage came a dazzling young blonde girl, who swung like mad with You Hit The Spot; I turned to my friend, an operatic soprano, as it happened, and whispered ‘That's a star!’
Claire already had it all; a lovely, rich voice, an immaculate jazz sense, taste, humour and emotional intensity. The repertoire escaped from the usual rut, there were some fierce jazz pieces and some great, searing ballads. Backstage after the concert, we became instant friends and she asked me to write the liner notes for her first Linn CD, 'The Waiting Game'.
Fifteen years on, Claire and I have done many concerts and club dates together and we made a CD for Linn Records, ‘When Lights Are Low’, which made us both happy. The years have only deepened and enriched her sound, her musicality is extraordinary and her grasp of lyrics unparalleled.
Like me, she is a major fan of Shirley Horn. Probably no other singer has had such an influence on her, and yet there are no traces of borrowing or imitation. I am sure that no other singer would have been so ideal for a Shirley Horn tribute.
When I started out, with some trepidation, to write this liner note, I thought I would probably dissect the CD, commenting on each song and the differences in tempo and interpretation between the two artists' work.
But now I don't feel any need to do this. The CD is such a warm, musical celebration of a great artist, it speaks so directly to the listener that I don't feel that I need to conduct a guided tour.
The musicians and the arrangements are faultless; there are some brilliant ways of rethinking pillars of Shirley's repertoire (Everything Must Change, A Song For You, All Night Long). There are a couple of shining new creations in her honour (Slowly But Shirley, Slow Time).
I knew Shirley pretty well. I am sure she would have been overcome by this lovely homage.
Richard Rodney Bennett