Secret Love - ejazznews

Despite this being her tenth album it is the first one that I've heard in its entirety and, on my initial listen, it became clear that I have been missing something special. Her voice is distinctive and displays an impressive range on a variety of material. It is soulful, in a meaningful sense of that word, and is imbued with tones that show she is well schooled in many aspects of jazz and blues.

Her choice of songs suggests that she is comfortable with both standards and contemporary lyrics, though there is a clear inclination to the former here. She tackles the varied tempi with assurance, even the breakneck ‘Cheek To Cheek', though I personally prefer her reading of a mid-tempo tune such as ‘The Meaning Of The Blues' where the colours provided by Laurence Cottle's bass and Gareth Williams' electric piano complement her interpretation perfectly.

Whilst this is obviously Martin's album, the musicians she has picked are more than just sidemen. Nigel Hitchcock's fluid alto on the title track, Jim Mullen's superb guitar understatements on ‘But Beautiful' and the unexpected but inspired choice of Melvin Duffy's pedal steel guitar on ‘Jive' all demonstrate how the judicious use of a certain instrument can add an extra layer or dimension to a song. And Mullen's guitar also provides a wistfully elegant accompaniment to Martin's sensitive take on ‘Where Do You Start'. Her voice is really at its finest on a track like this where she lingers on the bittersweet, ‘end of the affair' lyrics and holds those clear notes so effortlessly.

Something similar is in evidence on ‘My Buddy' where the slightly husky tones of her voice make the spine tingle and the restraint of Clark Tracey's drums is the ideal partner for Bobby Wellins' languorous tenor saxophone solo.

This cd has opened my ears to a voice that somehow I have managed to overlook for a long time. I look forward to correcting the oversight.

04 October 2004