Teaming up with guitarist Jim Mullen was a good idea and playing a programme of music written by or associated with Wes Montgomery also makes good sense. It doesn’t break any new ground but few jazz singers can take 11 well-worn standards and blues tracks and make them sound fresh and personal as Claire can.
She begins with a sturdy version of Road Song which emphasises her unique approach and, like the rest of the tracks, features a fine Mullen solo. Ms Martin chooses a slow but variable tempo for her reading of Polka Dots And Moonbeams and Jim Mullen’s contribution is a well- paced improvisation that glides along steadily.
Claire’s voice is rich and intense on Willow Weep For Me after a clean introduction by the guitarist. Thomas Ovesen on bass and Kristian Leth on drums complete a tight but always swinging rhythm section. They have a solo spot here and acquit themselves well. Claire’s vocal and Jim’s improvised solo will put nobody in any doubt that they are hearing a jazz performance. Many singers just sing and fit in well with a rhythm section but Claire Martin improvises her vocal lines in keeping with her support on all selections.
She is suitably melancholy and blues based on Monk’s Round Midnight. Her stretched notes and clear diction make this a fine interpretation of this classic. Jim Mullen is suitably blue and cool in his guitar segment. Other pieces that reinforce the jazz content are Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now and the Montgomery line West Coast Blues. The Dameron piece smooches along in fine form with Mullen joining the rhythm section for a Basie-styled beat and Martin stretching her voice to good effect to produce a personal jazz reading.
From first note to last neither singer nor instrumentalist put a foot wrong and that makes this one of the most enjoyable jazz vocal discs of this or any recent year. This set is arguably Claire’s best CD of them all and is certainly a very good one.
Road Song; Polka Dots And Moonbeams; Willow Weep For Me; ’Round Midnight; If You could See Me Now; Goin’ Out Of My Head; Bumpin’; West Coast Blues; Back In The Room; Born To Be Blue; The End Of A Love Affair (53.12)
Martin (v); Mullen (elg); Mads Barentzen (p); Thomas Ovesen (b); Kristian Leth (d). London, 2 & 3 July 2018.
Stunt CD 18112