Review: Claire Martin/ Sir Richard Rodney Bennett



Claire Martin/ Sir Richard Rodney Bennett
(The Forge, 11th November 2011. Opening night of LJF 2011. Review by Frank Griffith)


Kicking off the 2012 London Jazz Festival on 11.11.11 was jazz chanteuse, Claire Martin accompanied by the celebrated composer, songwriter, pianist and crooner,Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.

An ideal venue, too, the Forge is parked in a bustly section of Camden, and is ably run by Adam and Charlotte Caird. It occupies a high-ceilinged, square-shaped, woody space and boasts a wall of tall windows across from the stage that give the impression of enlarging the space further. Awash with pastel rose-coloured lighting, it's just the right ambiance for an idyllic evening of song.

Claire Martin’s voice is ideal for both jazz and popluar song. It’s somewhat veiled and husky quality is offset by a sharp rhythmic perkiness that suits her repertoire well. She moves light-footedly on stage, but never at the expense of distracting the listener from the music.
The two musicians share the introductions and anecdotal tidbits, background and history. That is effective and well-judged too. “Jabaret?” Or maybe not….

The main theme was the music of Irving Berlin which incuded his classics like Cheek to Cheek, Puttin on the Ritz, Change Partners and How Deep is the Ocean, but lesser known gems as well. Outstanding amongst these were Claire’s poignant renditions of I Got Lost in his Arms (perhaps his greatest song- for this writer anyway) and Fools Fall In Love.

Similarly, Richard’s takes on Say It Isn’t So and He Aint Got Rhythm (A satire on Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm) also scored with his uniquely low key interpretations. His vocal sound mirrors Ms Martin’s mellowed huskiness but differs in his somewhat less precise adherence to the written melody giving it a relaxed, come what may quality about it. Their duets were also effective, no doubt because of this affinity and blend of sound that they achieve together. More of these would have been welcome.

About midway through the second set they wisely added other composer’s works including Cy Coleman (Witchcraft, The Best Is Yet To Come) a Dusty Springfield song and the immortal A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. Mr Bennett’s refreshing treatment of this was done with a lightly loping waltz feel that worked exquisitely.

Another delight was their pairing together similarly titled songs into seamless medleys. Couplings like Isn’t It A Lovely Day and It’s A Lovely Day, Today; Shakin the Blues Away and Blue Skies; and The Very Thought of You and I Thought About You worked a treat.

A first class evening of song that so effectively set the stage for the impressive ten-day London Jazz Festival programme. Long may it live and prosper.

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