Claire Martin - He Never Mentioned Love - Jazz Review
"When Shirley Horn died, I didn't want it to be the end of that. I wanted to do my own little tribute, because she has given me so much." Thus Claire Martin explaining the genesis of this album, which comprises eleven songs connected with the great singer/pianist, plus an original specially written in tribute to her by Martin herself and her producer Laurence Cottle, and a song by Ian Shaw inspired by a Horn/Miles Davis recording session. Martin's vocal art has always been notable for it's unaffected, almost conversational warmth and intimacy, the result of a sympathetic intelligence that enables her to identify the emotional core of a song and infuse her version with a precisely appropriate degree of sentiment, and since this rare and valuable skill lies at the heart of Horn's appeal, too, this project was never going to suffer from the tribute's album's besetting sin: contrivance. Martin's versions of such songs as The Music That Makes Me Dance, If You Go, Forget Me and The Sun Died - archetypal, often achingly slow Horn staples - are just as affecting as their templates, whether they're subtly combining a wry acceptance of love's vicissitudes with a bruised but defiant optimism, or simply and touchingly confessing undying adoration for a perhaps unreliable lover. Martin's band - pianist Gareth Williams, growling but nimble bassist Cottle, drummer Clark Tracey, supplemented or replaced from time to time by various combinations of flugel-horn player Gerard Presencer, guitarist Jim Mullen, saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock, acoustic bassist Steve Watts and percussionist Massimo Marraccini - perform flawlessly throughout, self-effacingly enough in their accompanying role to ensure that Martin's mesmerising performances capture and hold the attention, but sparkily assertive and muscular where required for solo duties. In short: a gem of an album, pulling off the difficult feat of simultaneously showcasing Martin's unrivalled vocal gifts (crystal clear diction, sureness of emotional pitch chief among them) and celebrating the extraordinarily moving quality of Horn's music. Strongly recommended.