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The International Review of Music
'A versatile performer with the capacity to find the inner life of whatever she sings.'
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Sound Stage Experience
4½ Stars
'...this disc proves she has arrived as an impeccable master artist and one of the greatest living voices in jazz.'
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Next Magazine
'...Martin is a wonderful interpreter who's perfectly paired with Bennett...'
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Home Theater Sound
5 Stars
"...their partnership has created a rare and special collaboration where the superlative product is truly more than the sum of its parts."
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Cabaret Scenes
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Jazz Times
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The New York Observer
'...sung to perfection by England's best young jazz singer, Claire Martin.'
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The Wall Street Journal
'The result is a kind of perfection...'
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In Tune International
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MusicWeb International
"The collaboration between Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett works superbly."
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Record Collector
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The Walman Report / Culinary Gourmet
'Martin is a seasoned vocalist/performer and the end result is uniquely original.'
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Jersey Jazz
"...an album that is a sheer delight from start to finish."
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The Irish Times
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BBC Music Magazine
'...near-perfect match of singer and accompanist...'
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The Yorkshire Post
"Here's a lovely record...Martin is excellent throughout"
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Theater Mania
"...her smokey voice caresses the composer's melodies."
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The Observer
"...touching, clever, beautifully poised and deceptively casual-sounding."
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The Times
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'Martin's jazz virtuosity adds another dimension. When her honeyed timbre slips into the lower register she captures the romance of a Ben Webster tenor solo.'
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LondonJazz
'Claire Martin, both in the duo setting and in front of the chamber group made each song, each moment come to life.'
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O's Place Jazz Magazine
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North London News
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Scotland on Sunday
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London Jazz
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Jazzwise
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Jazz Journal
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Claire Martin & Richard Rodney Bennett - Live Review - The New York Times


01 June 2011
New York Times
Stephen Holden

Just a Couple of Sports, Merrily Singing Along

If it is not their British accents, what accounts for the way British jazz and pop singers filter songs through a screen of hauteur? That slightly blasé affect tinged Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett's opening-night performance of their breezy Irving Berlin show, "A Couple of Swells," at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel on Tuesday.

Adopting an amused distance from your subject is not a bad thing, I should add. It encourages a singer like Ms. Martin to break through the gap and make tellingly assertive gestures, as she did in a beautiful rendition of "What'll I Do?" Simply by bearing down on the title phrase, as if she were pleading to a friend for advice, she applied her stamp to a standard that everyone else interprets from a long-distance perspective.

Ms. Martin is a complicated agglomeration of styles. Her smoky, sensual voice echoes Cleo Laine, another British singer who, even in moments of turmoil, maintains a certain loftiness. If Ms. Martin's scat improvisations were mostly embellishments applied to the ends of phrases, at their most developed (during a performance of "Cheek to Cheek") they suggested a singer who has studied Anita O'Day. In other words, Ms. Martin swings moderately. If Mr. Bennett were a less-polite accompanist, she might venture more deeply into improvisation.

Mr. Bennett, who specializes in suave pianistic chitchat, supported Ms. Martin with sophisticated noodlings that kept the mood airy and light. He also joined her for several duets (including a clever merger of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" with "Let Yourself Go") and took some raspy solo vocals. His most engaging performance was a propulsive rendition of the slightly racy "He Ain't Got Rhythm," originally sung by Alice Faye in the 1937 movie "On the Avenue." A man who doesn't have rhythm, the song declares, "is the loneliest man in town."

Most of show's other standout moments belonged to Ms. Martin, whose renditions of "Better Luck Next Time" and "Fools Fall in Love" revealed the heart of a saloon torch beating inside the chipper jazz playmate. But for the most part, these two pals embodied exactly what the show's title says they are: a couple of swells having a relaxed fine time.

"A Couple of Swells" runs through June 10 at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331, algonquinhotel.com.


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