The unstoppable duo of Claire Martin and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, a partnership polished over two decades, originally released their stylish duo album When Lights Are Low in 2006 to critical acclaim.
Re-issued in Sir Richard's 75th birthday year to partner their new duo album Witchcraft.
Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett are on top of their game in this smoothly elegant collection of terrific, but not overly-exposed songs. This is an inventive and charming selection of material now getting some deserved attention. The titles reflect the vast knowledge and innate good taste of these artists and the entire CD is a treat from start to finish. Fans of this distinguished pair will be thrilled to add this recording to their collection, while those hearing them for the first time will quickly join the great numbers of us who enjoy them so much.
My admiration for Claire Martin dates from her first recording for Linn Records in 1992 called The Waiting Game. Her musicianship, natural vocal craftsmanship, perfection of pitch, substantial vocal range and ability to swing are characteristics that make listening to her one of the true joys of my life. Claire does not “mess” with songs; she does not over-embellish; she does not attempt any razzle-dazzle merely for the sake of flash and she is supremely confident. She is one of the most intelligent and intuitive singers of this generation. I go on applauding every syllable she utters.
It seems to me that Claire Martin has not encountered any sort of misstep in judgment since she first began to sing with regularity and it may be predicted with confidence that she will continue to thrive. She is skilled in her craft and intelligent in her choices. It is a master stroke as well that she and Richard Rodney Bennett have joined forces on more than one occasion, rapidly becoming this generation’s most gracious and popular jazz and cabaret performers.
My friendship with Richard began when first we met in 1981. At the time, I knew only that a charming man with an elegant British accent had entered my life, that he played piano beautifully and sang some lovely songs. In time I became aware of Richard’s many accomplishments including his highly ambitious compositions for symphonies, operas and ballets. He has received Academy Award nominations for film scores “Four Weddings And A Funeral”, “Murder On the Orient Express”, “Enchanted April”, “The Return Of The Soldier” and my personal favorite, the 1977 “Equus”, directed by Sidney Lumet. Like many of us, Richard was fascinated by jazz at any early age, and he was able to earn his living as a young jazz pianist while studying with Pierre Boulez in Paris. One can readily hear jazz influences in his playing today, and perhaps even more importantly in this context, he demonstrates a particularly sensitive awareness of the art of accompanying. Over the years, he’s played for many singers including Cleo Laine, Annie Ross, Chris Connor and even lucky me! And lest we forget, he himself ranks among the very best of the singer-pianists performing today.
As soon as When Lights Are Low arrived in my mailbox, I hurriedly popped it into the portable player, adjusted the headset, and settled into a comfortable chair with notepad. Mistakenly, I thought a simple method to indicate which tracks I’d choose for special mention would be a little * beside each title. When I found I’d ticked the first eight tracks, I abandoned the system entirely. Each selection is brilliant, but I must admit these took me straight to heaven:
Claire sings Fools Fall In Love, the seldom-heard Irving Berlin classic, with such an exquisite intensity that I found myself quickly playing it over several times before I was able to move on. Her voice is so well-suited to the range of the tune, and she sings it with such heartfelt sincerity, it is truly a form of vocal instruction for those who aspire to a career in jazz or cabaret. Please let this version be your guiding light.
Richard has chosen Not Exactly Paris, a song destined to be “covered” many, many times, as one of his ballads. Once again, the listener will be moved by the lyric and the plaintive quality of Richard’s voice. This is a beautiful song, sung by a Master. World Weary is another favorite, taken at a jaunty tempo, and I Keep Going Back To Joe’s is the most moving version of the song I’ve ever heard.
Of course, all the music on this CD is superbly sung, played by Richard in a lilting, swinging style when necessary, softly caressing Claire’s and his own voice on the ballads.
I tell you what: pretend it’s Christmas morning and there, beneath the tree, are 16* beautifully wrapped presents, each one only for you. It’s time to sip a little champagne and begin opening the first one.
Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett sparkle and shine, soothe and swing, all in one glorious package. If at all possible, I hope you accept the opportunity to hear them sing in person some evening.
Claire Martin - vocals
Richard Rodney Bennett - Piano & vocals
All tracks arranged by Richard Rodney Bennett
Producer: Richard Cottle
Recorded at: Systems Two Studio, Brooklyn, New York
Engineer: Calum Malcolm
Studio Assistant: Max
Mixing and Mastering by: Julia Thomas, Finesplice UK