Claire Martin - A Modern Art - Music-Web International

Since the launch of her debut album The Waiting Game (1992, Linn), Claire Martin has established herself as one of the UK's finest jazz vocalists. Acknowledging the influence of Shirley Horn especially and also Chris Connor (who just recently passed away and was one of the pre-eminent cool vocalists of the 1950's), Martin's vocal inspirations have kept her previous albums focused for the most part on a jazz based repertoire.

Her latest release A Modern Art is taking her down a somewhat different path. Drawing on more modern material, Martin has chosen to offer her interpretation of songs from the rock, pop and soul influenced music world. The challenge is to attract a younger more contemporary listening audience where lyrics are less important than presentation, style, and sound all the while retaining her supportive jazz base.

As Claire Martin indicates in the album's liner notes, only two songs come from "classic" composers. One is Rodgers & Hart's Everything I've Got Belongs to You but is taken at such a brisk tempo that it is difficult to appreciate those clever lyrics. The other is sly Cy Coleman's little ditty Everybody Today is Turning On which is about mind-altering substances and is from Coleman's 1977 Broadway musical I Love My Wife.

Claire Martin along with bassist Laurence Cottle has provided two compositions for the album, including the title number A Modern Art and a more satisfying Edgeways which has a very catchy bossa nova flavoured arrangement. Martin also provides her interpretation to the Joshua Redman composition Lowercase, which is very different from the reading given to the tune by the co-composer Mark Winkler in his own CD entitled Till I Get it Right. The balance of the songs on the disc fall into the trendy edgy category. There are several which are notable, including a very bluesy arrangement of Totally, a Latin inspired As We Live and Breathe and finally Nirvana where Martin is accompanied only by the acoustic guitar of Phil Robson. It is in this latter song where we can clearly hear the controlled phrasing and intonation for which Martin has become recognized.

Claire Martin has stretched her boundaries with this album and it may not find favour with her traditional fan base. However it is certainly an interesting digression in her musical journey.

Music-Web International
30 November 2009