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Claire Martin - A Modern Art - The Jazz Breakfast


24 September 2009
The Jazz Breakfast
Peter Bacon

What I really love is that, in a world of folk singers singing slightly bluesy songs, singers who once had a deal with a jazz label now not singing jazz at all, and singers who think singing standards somehow automatically makes them jazz singers, Claire Martin is the real thing: a jazz singer. It matters not what she sings, she makes it jazz because, like a jazz version of Blackpool rock, it goes all the way through.

She covers a wide range of material on this disc, from rareties of the great American songbook (like Rodgers & Hart's Everything I've Got Belongs To You), originals (like the stunning title track written by Claire and MD Laurence Cottle), jazz pop songs (like Fagen & Becker's Things I Miss The Most, and Michael Franks' Sunday Morning Here With You), and, most fascinatingly, modern jazz tunes with added lyrics (like EST's Love Is Real with words by Josh Haden, and Joshua Redman's Lowercase with words by Mark Winkler).

That Redman track is the place to start if you thought jazz singers were a bit too showbiz and cabaret for you - it's a storming piece of thoroughly 21st century jazz. In fact that can be said of the whole album. Martin has found a way of making jazz singing a modern art when so much of the time it has retreated into an exercise in nostalgia.

She's warm and romantic when she wants to be, more muscular in tone and articulation when that's what's needed, and is the absolute mistress when it comes to fitting a lot of words into a tricky melody line at speed. And her choice of musicians and bassist Laurence Cottle to arrange and produce the whole affair echoes that same modern spirit. Gareth Williams is on piano, James Maddren  and Chris Dagley share the drum duties, Nigel Hitchcock is on alto and Mark Nightingale on trombone. Phil Robson comes in on guitar and Sola Akingbola adds percussion.

I've also lost track of the number of CDs Claire Martin has made for Linn (great recorded sound guaranteed). And this is, I think, the best one yet.


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