Saturday, April 24, 2010

Claire Martin

biographyBorn in Wimbledon, South London, Claire Martin was born to sing. Growing up in a house full of music, she loved Judy Garland and learned all her songs by the time she was 12. But it was hearing Ella Fitzgerald’s legendary Song Books that changed her life inspiring her to go to Stage School and then to study singing in London and New York. A further seminal moment came at 18 when she saw the great improvising singer Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott’s. It confirmed what she already felt – she had to be a jazz singer. Like many singers Martin paid her dues and learnt her craft by embarking on the QE2 and the Cunard Princess.

Back on dry land and just 21, Claire formed her first quartet (featuring guitar legend Jim Mullen). Her break came when renowned Scottish jazz label Linn signed her in 1991, the start of a creative relationship that is still going strong today.

Rightly acclaimed as the outstanding voice of her generation, Claire's 1992 debut The Waiting Game (Linn AKD 018) scored rave reviews and was chosen as a Times Album of the Year. Interestingly, the liner notes were written by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, co-star of Martin’s 2005 album (a beautiful collection of outstanding songs featuring just the two of them). Claire achieved one of her ambitions later that year, opening for Tony Bennett at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival.
By the mid-nineties Claire had received the Rising Star and Best Vocalist awards at the British Jazz Awards while receiving rave reviews on her American debut with four sell-out shows in Washington DC. Another ambition was fulfilled with the recording of a live album at Ronnie Scott’s in 1995, an album that moved the New York Times to comment "In an era when young jazz singers tend to sound far too much like their idols, there is no mistaking the voice of Claire Martin who combines a cool, burnished tone with the ear of a born musician".
Increasingly popular across the pond, Martin recorded her fifth album Make This City Ours (Linn AKD 066) in New York reaching number 1 in the prestigious Gavin Charts and staying there for two weeks – the only European singer to achieve this. Future albums saw her collaborating with guitarist/producer Paul Stacey and she even had Noel Gallagher join her on a rendition of the Beatles classic Help. Later that year she met Paul McCartney and delivered the reworking by hand. Her second album with Stacey featured a duet with cult singer/songwriter the late John Martyn who was one of her all time favourite singers.
During the Spring of 2000 Claire was chosen by BBC Radio 3 to present a new weekly jazz show called Jazz Line Up. This is still going from strength to strength and next year will be celebrating it‘s 10th birthday. Claire has interviewed some of her all time musical hero‘s including; Pat Metheney, Brad Mehldau,, Tania Maria, Mike Stern, Joe Locke, Joshua Redman, Diane Reeves and the late Micheal Brecker. A 'dream job' as she rightly describes it!
She continued to gather awards, winning the Best Vocalist category for the fourth time at the 2002 British Jazz Awards and going onto win Best Vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards in 2003 (when she performed a duet with a certain Mr Cullum, who won the Rising Star Award that year).
Subsequent albums Too Darn Hot (Linn AKD 243) and Secret Love (Linn 246) further galvanised Claire‘s jazz credentials investigating an imaginative range of standards from the Great American Songbook as well as more contemporary material like Elvis Costello.
This was followed in 2005 by the critically-acclaimed duo release with composer and pianist Richard Rodney Bennett. Using material from their long-running shows, this intimate recording saw them offer takes on some rare repertoire from great writers like Sigman, Coward and Arlen. It prompted one Jazz Times reviewer to comment “For my money she's not only the finest female British jazz singer of her generation but possibly of all time.” This was followed by a highly successful national tour of the UK with Sir Richard to celebrate his 70th birthday. The tour finished with a star studded party at the Wigmore Hall where Claire and Richard performed the late set.
In 2007, Claire released an album dedicated to her all time favourite musician the late Shirley Horn, often called the singer’s singer. Hailed by most critics as her finest recording to date, He Never Mentioned Love (Linn AKD 295) captures her in intimate mode, paying tribute to her greatest musical influence. It led to widespread acclaim, with Observer Music Monthly hailing Martin as “the complete jazz singer she's always threatened to be.”
2007 also saw her make her debut at the world famous Oak Room at the Alqonguin Hotel in New York. Her two week run was a huge success with Tony Bennett dropping into hear his fave Brit singer on the opening night and Martin’s trademark cocktail of standards, sass, swing and lesser known gems had the new York critic’s purring with one New York paper purring “A world-class performer, offering proof-positive that jazz can be sung in a British accent”.
In September she returned to New York with pianist/singer and dear friend Ian Shaw to headline for 3 sell-out nights at 'Dizzy's Co-Co Cola' as part of the Lincoln Centre's 'Women in Jazz' Festival 2007.
They both opened the 2007 London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 'We Love Ella' celebrations with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
2008 saw Claire headlining the 'Picnic in the Park' series in Dubai with Pete Long's big band and performing with her trio for the first time at the prestigious Trondheim Jazz Festival in Norway. In June she flew out to perform at the Los Gatos Festival in Carmel, California and performed with the legendary L.A singer/songwriter Mark Winkler.
During July 2008 Claire embarked on a new musical adventure with conductor John Wilson and singer Curtis Stigers. Together with actor Mark McGann they celebrated the life and music of John Lennon with brand new arrangements of Lennon's work for the LIverpool Symphony Orchestra by Andrew Cotty. The concerts received rave reviews with 15 minute standing ovations!! This show is to be repeated in Dublin with the RTE Orchestra this Summer. Wilson also conducted the RTE for their New Year's Eve concert which Claire headlined to ring in 2009. They have worked together over the last 10 years with Wilson conducting Claire with the Halle Orchestra on several occasions when they performed the Ella Fitzgerald songbook.
2009 started with a tour of the UK with Sir Richard Rodney Bennett – performing their show Withcraft a tribute to Cy Coleman. "Worldclass" described Clive Davis of The Times.
They went on to do a two week engagement at the Oak Room at the Algonquin hotel in May/June and received reviews from both the New York Times and The New York Observer which described the show as "Wise and cultivated, satisfying, heavenly and fulfilling". Claire‘s headline piece by Rex Reed simply stated "Nobody does it like Claire Martin – a British singing sensation".
Claire's latest release A Modern Art was recorded during March of 2009 and features the amazing talents of Nigel Hitchcock, Laurence Cottle (who also produced and arranged the sessions), Mark Nightingale, Phil Robson and Gareth Williams. Always keen to surround herself with the best musician's in town, the CD is a modern take on jazz singing in the 21st century. Two new original songs by Claire and Laurence are alongside new songs by Mark Winker, Joshua Redman, Lauren Kinhan, Colin Lazzerini and all time favourite writers Donald Fagan, Micheal Franks, Cy Colemand and Rodgers & Hart.

Jazz at Kineo,Brighton.June 2nd 2010.

Claire Martin, vocal,Jim Mullen,Guitar,Laurence Cottle,bass,Dave Ohm,drums.

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