Claire Martin - The Early Years Anthology - Coda

12 January 2009
Trevor Hodgett

Claire Martin has long been recognized as perhaps Britain's leading jazz singer. But listening to "The Early Years Anthology", a box set containing her first four studio CDs, one is struck by how, even on her debut, "The Waiting Game" (1992), her estimable qualities were already in place. Her sensitivity to lyrics? Check. Her improvisational confidence? Check. Her technical assurance? Check. Her emotional range? Check. Her seemingly effortless ability to swing? Check. Really, one listens in vain for any hint of tentativeness or callowness.

"The Waiting Game" and its follow up, "Devil May Care" (1993), feature exemplary musicianship from guitarist Jim Mullen and pianist Jonathan Gee on both contemporary songs and choices from the Great American Songbook, but the latter album also includes four interesting Martin compositions or co-compositions which show an impressive poetic sensibility. Oddly, Martin barely features as a writer again. Still, on "Old Boyfriends" (1994) Rupert Holmes's witty, dark Partners in Crime is sung with huge aplomb and there is a compelling interpretation of Tom Waits's poignant title track. And on "Make This City Ours" (1997) her interpretations of standards such as Irving Berlin's How Deep is the Ocean are very persuasive with trumpeter Gerard Presencer and saxophonist Antonio Hart contributing tellingly.

"Perfect Alibi" (2000) has been issued separately and features Martin applying her jazz chops to songs by Jimi Hendrix, Laura Nyro, Todd Rundgren and others. Man in the Station is a striking duet with John Martyn, the song's composer.

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