Claire Martin Secret Love Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

The first lady of British Jazz releases her tenth album for Linn...

Kathryn Shackleton 2004

Secret Love is the 10th album for Linn records from the first lady of British jazz and (as ever) she brings great musicians and formidable but not over-sung material together to craft something that will last a lifetime. Claire Martin always performs with personality, attitude and an attention to sonic detail, and it's testament to her great technique and vocal power that she's as astonishingly good live as she sounds on this album.

Johnny Mandel's "Where Do You Start?" is a heart-rending, intimate portrayal of a disintegrating relationship, sung in a duo with long-standing collaborator, guitarist Jim Mullen. Claire's great control of rhythm and pace means that she can make much out of little instrumentation. Jim's liquid guitar phrases support Claire's golden-syrupvocal perfectly and give her the space to bend and shape the rhythm to the emotional ups and downs of the song.

In Bacharach and Costello's "God Give Me Strength", Claire calls on her significant vocal range, and moves from breathy whispers to lungfulls of power in just a few bars. She holds her own easily against the three percussionists giving it their all, and wringspassion from every belted-out note.

It's not just in the slower, more passionate numbers that Claire excels, though. Gareth Williams, one of Claire's favoured pianists, has created a dizzyingly fast arrangement of "Cheek to Cheek", in which Claire paces herself on the intro, before dense piano-work from Gareth gives the song liftoff. Laurence Cottle - the jazz musician's bass guitarist - unveils a lyrical, vocalised solo at breakneck speed here, and there's plenty of space for the trio to swing. Again, in the percussion-centric "Get Happy", the musicians are given free rein to solo, led by Nigel Hitchcock's boppish sax, once Claire and Clark Tracey have shared the intro together on voice and drums.

Two more of Claire's buddies - Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and saxophonist Bobby Wellins - come together with her to celebrate the life of recently departed writer, broadcaster and mutual friend Joel Siegel with the song "My Buddy". A wistful and breathy solo from Bobby, velvet vocals from Claire, and Sir Richard's understated piano create a poignant and delicate tribute.

Claire's diction and delivery arean extension of her speaking voice and attitude (of which she has plenty!) There's never a sense that she's over-acting or over-emphasising - which marks her as a natural.

So, hold on. Why hasn't Claire got Grammies and platinum discs coming out of her ears? Why is she such an unsung singer? At least this conspiracy means that we haven't lost her to the impersonal gigs that megastardom brings...yet.

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