‘At each outing, newly-crafted arrangements emerge. The listener marvels at Claire Martin's ability and determination to create a wholly new pad of repertoire from zero.' LondonJazz Review
‘Martin has long been among the most versatile and wide-ranging of singers. Her latest venture, with the Quartet, is no exception.' Classical Source
Together Claire and the quartet create a magical sound fusion of jazz-chamber music that encompasses new arrangements from an eclectic group of songwriters including Lennon & McCartney, George Gershwin, David Bowie and Thelonius Monk. With the connections borne of twenty-five years in the business Claire has commissioned imaginative new arrangements, including Joni Mitchell's Two Grey Rooms by renowned composer Mark Anthony Turnage.
Pianist Joe Stilgoe guests on his own track Lost For Words and delivers a distinctive arrangement of Lennon & McCartney's She's Leaving Home. There are also echoes of The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby on a new arrangement of David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World.
Claire's long-time partnership with Richard Rodney Bennett is acknowledged with both song-writing and arranging credits; Early To Bed is quintessential Bennett and Claire gives a heartfelt performance. Time & Place sees Martin return with renewed vigour to pop-crossover territory, a trend she championed long before Norah Jones and Madeleine Peyroux made this style an accepted genre.
Montpellier Cello Quartet
Joe Stilgoe piano & vocals
Gareth Williams piano
Jeremy Brown bass
Laurence Cottle electric bass
Ben Reynolds drums
Time & Place
Claire Martin has been one of my favourite musicians for a long time. Though she is respected as one of the world's finest jazz singers, she is not limited by or to the genre. The well she dips into is a deep one and songs from all styles of music live there, waiting to be pulled up into the daylight. When the person lowering the bucket is Claire Martin, something special can be expected to emerge. That is to say, she has a gift for selecting material which is not only perfect for her soulful and expressive voice, but which also resonates powerfully on an emotional level.
This album is a perfect case in point. The repertoire here includes music from composers as diverse as David Bowie, Thelonius Monk, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Joni Mitchell, George Gershwin, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Claire unites all of these songs with the power of her artistry, from the lush and sophisticated reimagining of Joni Mitchell's ‘Two Grey Rooms' (courtesy of an arrangement by the brilliant Mark-Anthony Turnage), to her stark and moving version of The Beatles' ‘She's Leaving Home'. Whether a piece has the grand design of the former, or the naked simplicity of the latter, it is the depth and richness of Claire's instrument, her impeccable taste and her profound ability as a storyteller which pulls me in and keeps me there.
She is also a risk taker. For a jazz vocalist to attempt a major recording project largely featuring a cello quartet as the main or even sole underpinning takes courage. I think the fact that the collaboration is so successful here can be attributed to three factors: Claire's vision and will to pull it off, the wonderful Montpellier Cello Quartet and the gifted arrangers represented. Add to that the artful contributions of Joe Stilgoe, Laurence Cottle, Gareth Williams, Jeremy Brown and Ben Reynolds and it becomes evident that this recording is bursting at the seams with talent and creativity.
In the period before this project was conceived, Claire lost a friend, colleague, teacher and confidant in the form of the great Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. As she so honestly expressed, ‘Richard's death blew a hole right through me'. Indeed, that sense of loss is a recurring theme here. ‘Featherfall', ‘She's Leaving Home', ‘Lost For Words', ‘My Man's Gone Now' and ‘Two Grey Rooms' all deal with this painful and universal subject. By wrestling with her own difficult feelings, Claire holds up a mirror for the rest of us in the form of these compositions and with it the potential for transformation and catharsis.
In his poem, Separation, W.S. Merwyn wrote: ‘Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.' Claire, in trying to reconcile the loss of her dear friend, also celebrates the beauty he left behind with two examples of his excellence on this sublime offering. Claire Martin is an important artist who continues to get better and go deeper with each new release.
© Joe Locke, 2014