These are the songs and stories you are unlikely to ever tire of listening to. Callum Au, with his bright, scintillating arrangements has achieved the near impossible, turning 11 sturdy but well-worn standards into fresh music.
Of, course it is all in the approach, the arranging skill and the honeyed voice of Claire Martin but all these tracks sound new and freshly minted. Callum has assembled a large orchestra with full string section, brass, reeds and rhythm. In addition, on four tracks he uses a big jazz band that crackles away in the timeless fashion first worked out by Count Basie in the late 50s in his Atomic period.
Two tracks by the orchestra are standouts – I Concentrate On You and I Get Along Without You Very Well – thanks, doubtless, to the storytelling warmth of Claire’s voice and the precision playing of the orchestra. I Never Went Away is another goodie, a smooth, sensitive vocal introduced by a bittersweet cor anglais passage. The horn also accompanies Claire’s vocal adding harmonic spice to her singing.
Maybe best of all I would single out Stars Fell On Alabama where the big band swings hard and Claire, picking up on their enthusiasm, goes into spontaneous scat singing.
This album was a labour of love from Callum and Claire, as they say on the liner, and the playing by the orchestras matches their desire to produce some special music. Of the various solos, listen out for Nadim Teimoori on tenor sax on I Concentrate, Sam Mayne’s alto on Hello Young Lovers and Freddie Gavita on trumpet on Pure Imagination.
The sound balance is particularly good but best on vinyl. If you go for that format though you miss out on the last track: You and The Night And The Music.
Pure Imagination; Let’s Get Lost; I Get Along Without you Very Well; The Folks who Live On The Hill; Hello Young Lovers; I Concentrate On you; I Never Went Away; The Night We Called It A Day; Stars Fell On Alabama; Don’t Like Goodbyes; You And The Night And The Music* (46.16)
Claire Martin (v); Callum Au (tb, arr); Mark Nightingale (cond); Louis Dowdeswell (t, ldr); string orchestra and big band. London, February and March 2019. *On CD only.
Stunt Records STULP 20061 / STUCD 20062