Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett - When Lights Are Low - The Herald
When jazz duos work, they can really work a treat and Monday night's concert featuring the relatively new double-act of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and Claire Martin was a treat of the most sophisticated kind. The super-versatile Bennett is probably the world's leading cabaret singer-pianist - Britain's answer to the late Bobby Short - and his fondness for witty lyrics, plus his classy, swinging piano style, brought a touch of the Algonquin to The Hub.
In Claire Martin, Bennett has found a worthy successor to such previous jazz singing partners as Annie Ross and Marion Montgomery. There's a strong rapport between the pair, as their vocal duets on the knock-out opening number Any Place I Hang My Hat and the gently swinging When Lights Are Low proved. An inspired fusion of two old standards, The Very Thought of You (sung by Martin) and I Thought About You (sung by Bennett), underlined the ease with which these two stars work together - not that it looks like anything other than great fun.
For most of the concert, however, the two voices were separate. What they have in common is a gift for being able to tell a story, paint a picture, set a scene. Martin did it best on the languid Something Cool (written, as Bennett subsequently revealed, about the literary character Blanche Dubois), while Bennett brought Elvis Costello's Baby Plays Around vividly - and very poignantly - to life. Other gems included a couple of lesser-known Gershwin songs: The You-Don't-Know-the-Half-of-It Dearie Blues, sung by Bennett, and Martin's take on the old Lee Wiley favourite My One and Only."