Claire Martin - He Never Mentioned Love - The Jazz Rag

The voice and style of Claire Martin is quite unlike that of Shirley Horn. Nor does she have the same dramatic intensity and poignancy that was evident in Shirley's singing, particularly during her latter "comeback" years. But this heartfelt tribute to Shirley by Claire has her taking songs Shirley performed at different stage in her career and interpreting them very differently. The result is wholly listenable - a happy hour of music.

The title song with its sad story, starts with only Gareth Williams' piano backing, and when Laurence Cottle's bass and Clark Tracey's drums join in, a measured pace is maintained. Forget Me is given an uppish treatment, highlighted by a fine Williams solo. Everything Must Change, which always reminds me of Stevie Wonder's All In Love Is Fair, sees Jim Mullen's guitar artistry added, and a Latin beat that turns it into something optimistic. Likewise Travellin' Light gets a good groove. Claire employs admirable restraint on The Music That Makes Me Dance, its yearning mood illustrating her skilful use of intervals. She lets rip in a more customary manner on All Night Long, which swings in ¾ and features facile flugelhorn from Gerard Presencer. Gerard also adds his eloquence to Claire's tender, wistful, perfectly-phrased version of one of those gifts from France, If You Go. Leon Russell's eminently singable A Song For You is her hottest outing of this set, with a matching Mullen guitar contribution.

At track 9, the salute extends to Slowly but Shirley, a Martin composition in literate praise of her idol. Here the group becomes a quintet, introducing a pleasurable alto solo by Nigel Hitchcock. Claire then gives her all to a rarely-sung Rodgers and hart ballad, You're Nearer, building in power with guitar backing. In L.A. Breakdown, after a long, telling, non-tempo verse, we get to hear the bluesy sides of both Mullen and Martin - not a moment too soon. Contrary to its title, Slow Time has grooving Latin rhythm and keyboard electronics to aid Claire in doing respectful justice to Ian Shaw's articulate lyrics about Ms Horn. While wondering why, according to the credits, it took six people to compose it, I must say The Sun Died is a wonderfully evocative closer by Claire in which Gerard Presencer assuredly shines.

As Richard Rodney Bennett says in his absorbing notes: "I am sure that no other singer would have been so ideal for a Shirley Horn tribute".

The Jazz Rag
01 October 2007