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Claire Martin - A Modern Art - Jazz Journal


07 October 2009
Jazz Journal
Bruce Crowther

An outstanding jazz singer, no matter how exacting the standards used to define the term might be, Claire Martin has never made an album that was less than excellent and with each one that has appeared she somehow manages to improve upon the extraordinary qualities of the last. Her repertoire here is intriguing, witty and exploratory, and she offers a couple of original songs that make the listener think without ever affecting the visceral enjoyments to be found in her work. To consider a specific example, on A Modern Art, by Martin and Cottle, she takes a wry look at the matter in which so much of what we are presented with today in music has been moulded for the least imaginative among us. Jazz singing is one such product that has been diminished in this way, but Martin achieves that most difficult task of appealing to mind and heart with losing either. I expect that the implied irony in this is deliberate. Some of the songs express Martin's deeply personal thoughts, such as Love Is Real, a composition by and tribute to the late Esbjörn Svensson. Elsewhere, as on Cy Coleman's Everybody Today Is Turning On, David Cantor's Nirvana, Colin Lazzerini's Totally and Christina Bjordal's Promises, she swings with gracious ease, whatever the tempo.

To steal a lyric phrase from another place, Martin simply oozes with class and throughout there are too many magical moments to enumerate. It really is a genuine delight to be able to spend a little time in her company. The arrangers are not named but I would guess that Martin and Cottle, and they are perfectly suited to the moment. Martin's accompanists are all in fine form and, invidious or not, Williams and Cottle are especially worthy of your attention. Altogether, a wholly admirable set and one that lovers of superior jazz singing should acquire without delay.
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