Claire Martin - A Modern Art - City Life

No-one manages to transplant the sophistication of the Songbook era to our own time with the conviction of Claire Martin.

She announces her modernity by providing the antithesis to modernity on the title track. So Twentieth Century is a wry put-down of allegedly unfashionable musical and human virtues. Martin's achievement is clear: the songs proclaim ennui, disillusion and detachment, while the singer herself is the incarnation of sass and vivacity.

Steely Dan cast a large shadow over A Modern Art, even if there's only one Becker-Fagen cover (Things I Miss The Most: the last word on ennui). It's there in the seamless fusion of pop and jazz, and in the perfection of the arrangements. Yet the album avoids sterility: the highlight is a heartfelt reading of Esbjorn Svensson's Love Is Real, a true modern jazz standard.

07 September 2009