REVIEW: Liane Carroll and Claire Martin at St. John's Smith Square (2018 EFG LJF)

Liane Carroll and Claire Martin
Photo credit: Nadja von Massow

Liane Carroll and Claire Martin
(St. John's Smith Square. 24 November 2018. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Lauren Bush)

A night out with Liane Carroll and Claire Martin is always an enjoyable affair. Throw in special guest Martin Shaw on the trumpet and put them in the hidden gem of a venue, St John's Smith Square, and you’ve got a night not to be forgotten.

Any time Martin and Carroll perform together, it feels like the audience are all the best of friends at a really fun party and they just happened to sit down around the piano to entertain. The two of them are so confident and comfortable that it just makes everyone want to smile from ear to ear.

The night was full of memorable favourites from the Great American Songbook and the two contributed in duets and individual songs, always with Carroll on the piano. Her playing compliments the two voices perfectly, especially when she sings and plays herself, as she knows all the best spots to lay back, emphasize, add a trill, or just walk quietly with her left hand. The two did a beautiful rendition of Carole King’s song You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, in tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, and then Shaw was invited to join the stage for the rest of the songs interchanging between the trumpet and flugelhorn. Carroll showed off a bit on the faster tunes like in Almost Like Being in Love (that she counted off so fast that even Shaw was given a run for his money) and Honeysuckle Rose where all three musicians had a lot of fun playing around with the chromatics, lacing in and out of each other’s melodies and getting goofy with the lyrics.

The second half started with an I Got Rhythm “mash-up” as Carroll called it, combining the scat-sung melodies of Cottontail and Oleo and the lyrics of the original Gershwin tune. It’s always nice to see these two impress the audience, who may be less familiar with this more instrumental style of jazz, with their spirit and expertise. It’s obvious they hold their own, not just amongst the top singers, but amongst the top instrumentalists.

Carroll carried on with a softer moment, a more melodious version of a Tom Waits song called Take It With Me. She may have a dynamite sense of humour, but she can take a meaningful lyric and pack it full of emotion better than anyone else. Martin shared a less familiar tune with the audience – a touching song by Rupert Holmes called The People That You Never Get To Love.

Shaw was invited back out again at this point for a much more bluesy, soulful last few numbers: Love Potion Number Nine, West Coast Blues, Love For Sale and Come Rain Or Come Shine. Naturally, all three shone in their respective roles with the audience snapping along.

Shaw, who was seen earlier in the LJF playing in Guy Barker’s gigantic orchestra during the opening night Jazz Voice Gala, was equally at home here in this intimate setting. He was a lovely addition to this ever inspiring duo.

LINK: Review of the first ever duo concert by Liane Carroll and Claire Martin in April 2016

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