Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett - When Lights Are Low - Evening Standard

Claire Martin and Ian Shaw at The Purcell Room, London
This dynamic duo were in lively form last night, spicing their annual Christmas special with candid ad-libs ("I'm off to Australia tomorrow. Lovely, yes, but it's 30 hours in a plane with a three-year old" from Claire). Shaw's more subversive showbiz quips included one about Val Doonican, "a singer who, strangely enough, never wore monogrammed initials on his shirts or handkerchiefs".
Good friends who guest on each others albums, these two cover everything from Broadway (Cheek to Cheek, Teach Me Tonight, When I Fall In Love) to Joni Mitchell (Both Sides Now, Big Yellow Taxi) and their chemistry is good.
In Stevie Wonder mode, Shaw's vocal chords tended to leap alarmingly from Barry White baritone to Barry Gibb castrato, but the moments when he and Claire harmonised, as on the show-closer, Send Me Someone to Love, were brilliant. And as an accompanist, his deft piano work was all any singer could want.
Velveteen on the ballads and elegant in Vivienne Westwood black, Claire scatted boldly on the blues Centrepiece, swapping vocal walking-basslines with Shaw and generally anticipating his every move as performers can only do after gigging frequently "since 1936" as Ian put it. Happy New Year to them both.
23 December 2005