Claire Martin - The Waiting Game - The Wire

It's no exaggeration to say that Claire Martin is the most phenomenal vocal talent yet to appear on the British jazz scene. This is her debut album. Only 24, her musicality is precocious and breathtakingly assured. Flexibility, control, swing, superb intonation, she has them all.

For The Waiting Game she has a sympathetic band featuring marvellous Jim Mullen on guitar and excellent Jonathan Gee on piano, and it's clear from her live performances that she really listens to what they're doing. Arnie Somogyi and Clark Tracey complete the line-up here. The programme backs up Mark Murphy's assertion that "good songs are being written today. You just have to go out and find them". This is just what Ms Martin has done, and the result is varied and challenging. The title-track is an original by Martin and Gee. Joni Mitchell's "Be Cool", "Some Cats" by Leiber and Stoller are side-by-side with "Everything Happens To Me" and Rodgers and Hart's "This Funny World".

It's Claire Martin's maturiry that is so astonishing, her style cool and sometimes blase in the way she throws off a lyric, her voice deep and husky. Afrer such mid-Atlantic assurance it's a bit of a shock to hear the Cockney accent introducing the wonderfully witty "(All I Want Is) The Key To Your Ferrari": "There was one room in his house that he always kept locked, and that was his gawidge...". "Tight" invites comparison with the classic original version on The Audience with Betty Carter from 1979. It was risky to try and follow thar, but Claire Martin's vocal twists and turns approach Betty Carter's.

Composer and non-singing (non-jazz) singer Richard Rodney Bennett, in his eulogising sleevenote, suggests thar nothing has been lost from live performances. But that's not quite right. In this year's Glasgow Jazz Festival, Claire supported Mr Tony Bennett, no less, who was very complimentary about her singing. (Just as well, since it was a marvellous set - in some contrast to what followed.) "The People That You Never Get To Love", a beautifully sharp Rupert Holmes song, seemed to pack more punch on that occasion than here. But there's plenty of time yet for The Audience with Claire Martin. If you're sceptical about my opening claim, start by checking out The Waiting Game.

The Wire
01 September 1992