Claire Martin - Time & Place -

Those who are hip to the world of high-end audio know the Linn name as being synonymous with some of the best sounding stereo products on the planet. The Glasgow-based company also releases some fine jazz and classical recordings, including this new collection by Claire Martin.

Drawing on a diverse range of songwriters - from Lennon and McCartney to David Bowie to Joni Mitchell to Gershwin and Monk - Martin offers eleven songs that, in spite of their pop origins, always stay true to her jazz roots. With the accompaniment of The Montpellier String Quartet, Martin makes a smart choice by opening the album with a dusky, romantic reading of Gershwin and Weill's "My Ship." Her own arrangement of "Catch Me If You Can" is a rollicking follow-up to the quietude of the opener, braced by pianist Joe Stilgoe's hearty left hand.

Stilgoe's own "Lost For Words" is interesting, a roomy ballad that offers Martin plenty of room for exploration. Though pop covers by jazz artists can be dicey business - see Cyrille Aimee's cover of Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" - Stilgoe's arrangement of The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" is perfectly simple and heartfelt (though Stilgoe's background vocals seem a little out of place). Even better is the tongue-in-cheek reading of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World," a humorous touch of cabaret that evokes thoughts of darkly lit burlesque stages.

Making something new out of "'Round Midnight" is always a challenge but the electric bass work and the quartet's accompaniment offer a nice change of pace. As should be expected from an audio company, the engineering on this record is impeccable.

Martin's work here is exemplary: rich, romantic, fervent and classy. This is a solid record with few flaws.
26 August 2014