Claire Martin - Too Much In Love To Care - LondonJazz

Noting what she terms 'a faint audible sigh of relief whenever I start singing something familiar at gigs', Claire Martin has finally succumbed to this politest form of pressure and recorded (for the first time) an album entirely devoted to the Great American Songbook.

The result will undoubtedly delight said sighers, for not only does Martin herself turn in a flawless performance, but she has also enlisted the services of arguably the greatest living interpreter of such material, pianist Kenny Barron, impeccably supported by bassist Peter Washington, drummer Kenny Washington and flautist/saxophonist Steve Wilson.

Beginning with a relatively obscure standard, the Kriegsmann/Coates title-track ('virtually untouched since Carmen McRae recorded it in 1954' according to liner-note writer Will Friedwald), Martin subsequently ventures into more familiar territory, including an affecting duo with Barron on the evergreen 'Embraceable You', a touching visit to 'How Long Has This been Going On?' and - a triumph of revitalisation, considering how frequently it's been recorded - a perfect rendition of 'I Only Have Eyes for You'.

Martin's great strengths - crystal-clear diction, an apparently informal ease of delivery that conceals considerable art, an ability (springing from a keen intelligence) to inject precisely the right amount of emotion into a lyric - are all on display throughout a thirteen-song set, and with the Washingtons, Wilson and the peerless Barron (characteristically combining luminously delicate lyricism with sparkling vigour as required) in top form, this is an unalloyed treat from start to finish.

10 April 2012