Claire Martin - A Modern Art -

Singer-songwriter and Radio 3 jazz presenter Claire Martin has managed to combine her separate though interrelated professions with great aplomb, but with 'A  Modern Art' has come up with arguably her most contemporary sounding and accomplished recording thus far. Perhaps it is the recent residency in New York that has done her a power of good and on this album Martin has very successfully provided a modern twist to the vocal repertoire. This includes the Steely Dan pairing, Michael Franks and even a vocal take on an instrumental piece from the late Esbjorn Svensson. She is to be commended for going beyond the standard jazz repertoire and find other songs that can be just as well interpreted, but relate specifically to contemporary society. Taking a leaf out of the school of jazz irony personified by Mose Allison and Patricia Barber, 'So twentieth century' is a nice swinging original piece while the band really stretch out on 'Love of another' that introduces the talented songwriting of Rebekka Bakken with fine piano and ensemble accompaniment. 

A light Latin breeze is one way to describe Martin's take on Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's 'Things I miss the most' and Gareth Williams plays a lovely solo here. What impresses in general is the desire to take chances (something Claire Martin alludes to in her sleeve notes) and explore new territory in the choice of song as in adding lyrics to the Joshua Redman instrumental 'Lowercase' which is an uptempo number with saxophone, or in the beautiful ballad rendition of 'Love is real' in homage to Esbjorn Svensson. The album is extremely varied in tempo and context, the title track providing a big band ambience while Michael Franks' 'Sunday morning here with you' is delivered in the most intimate of settings with trio and guitar. Proceedings end with an even sparser format of guitar, bass and vocals on 'Nirvana'. Claire Martin seems to have reached her own nirvana on this album and 'A Modern Art' seems set to be her most successful to date.
25 September 2009