Claire Martin - A Modern Art - The Vortex

This is singer Claire Martin's 13th album, and the latest in a lengthy run drawing on the close musical rapport she has struck up with bassist/composer/producer Laurence Cottle, but for freshness and vitality and the sheer proselytising enthusiasm she brings to the music, it is possibly unmatched in her 17-year recording history. She has always been a skilful selector of material, choosing songs out with the Great American Songbook that will suit her sparky, unaffected but sensitive and thoughtful delivery, but on this album there is an overriding purpose to this ingenuity: she wanted to 'get jazz out there and battering against the celebrity-itis that riddles our society'. This is the overt message of the album's title-track, a Martin/Cottle composition, but it also subtly informs the rest of its repertoire, comprised of instantly enjoyable but witty and intelligent songs by the likes of Colin Lazzerini, New York Voices' Lauren Kinhan and Mark Winkler (who has brought joy to proofreaders everywhere by incorporating printing jargon into a Joshua Redman tune). There are quieter moments, notably a poignant and affecting visit to an Esbjörn Svensson ballad, 'Love is Real' and a memorable version of Michael Franks's 'Sunday Morning Here with You', but the overall mood is upbeat and peppy, and the musicians (pianist Gareth Williams, altoist Nigel Hitchcock, trombonist Mark Nightingale, guitarist Phil Robson, drummers James Maddren and Chris Dagley, percussionist Sola Akingbola in addition to Cottle on bass) are simply exemplary, supple but powerful and gutsy as required. Quite simply a cracker of an album. Warmly recommended.

06 October 2009