Snape Proms: Claire Martin

Claire Martin Quartet, Snape Proms, Tuesday, August 7

Claire Martin Quartet, Snape Proms, Tuesday, August 7

IT was back in the early 1990s that Claire Martin first hit the UK jazz scene and it was not long before her swinging style had her being declared as Britain's top jazz singer.

And if she wasn't, then she was not very far from it.

She toured festivals and clubs all over the world and most of her appearances saw her accompanied by the superb pianist Gareth Williams and the equally superb drummer, Clark Tracey who were both with her at this concert and still in fine fettle.

Since those heady days, Ms Martin's career has gone in several directions, including a spell that took her into the world of folkish-pop.

But jazz was never very far away and her career has really taken off again in the last few years and she now presents jazz shows on radio, and comperes and sings with the BBC Radio Big Band - they broadcast from last year's Snape Proms.

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On this showing, she must be prime candidate for that top jazz singer accolade again. She's got all the sparkle that she had when she first hit the jazz scene, but she's also matured into a major entertainer and her interpretation of Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life was pure magic.

Backed by just one instrument, the impressive bass guitar of Laurence Cottle, she pulled out all the raw emotion that this musical masterpiece demands - a spellbinding performance that fully deserved the huge applause from the audience.

A pity there were not a few more of them though, for this show deserved more than the few hundred it attracted.

They missed a well varied programme that included plenty of new arrangements of some fairly familiar material and of some not so familiar too, including Cherokee Louise and LA Breakdown.

The programme included some of the songs that used to be performed by American singing legend Shirley Horn who has always been a great influence on Claire Martin.

Claire Martin can still swing with the best and belt it out too, but she has also learned how to get the best out of the lyrics and she can slow things down till things seem about to stop.

All highly affective and Claire Martin is now more than a superb singer. . .she's also a fine entertainer who can hold court in the top concert halls of the world down to the cosiest and intimate cabaret club.

Alan Crumpton

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