Claire Martin: But Beautiful
Claire Martin (vocals)
Secret Love (Linn 246)
Claire Martin (vocals),
Nigel Hitchcock (soprano sax), Gareth Williams (piano, organ), Richard Cottle (organ), Jim Mullen (guitar), Lawrence Cottle (electric bass), Clark Tracey (drums), Miles Bould (percussion).
Composed by Johnny Burke & Jimmy Van Heusen.
Recorded: London, June 2004
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
Claire Martin is by far the most popular jazz singer in England. While her biography lists Betty Carter and Shirley Horn as primary influences, her voice carries the unmistakable smokiness of June Christy. Martin’s artistry extends further than Christy’s, with her soulful delivery and exquisitely-detailed melodic inventions.
“But Beautiful” is a challenging song: its primary motive is a simple rising and falling idea which repeats at several pitch levels. The motives culminate with sweeping melodies in the second and fourth eight-bar phrases. To maintain interest, the singer needs to either think of the song as two 16-bar segments, building through each one, or concentrate on the basic motive, making changes as the song progresses. Martin actually takes both approaches in this recording. In her opening chorus, she makes several variations to the motive, all quite different from one another in subtle ways. Jim Mullen’s guitar solo is in long meter and the double-time feel buoys Martin into her final half-chorus, where each statement of the motive builds on the last. However, she avoids the predictable big ending, relaxing with the rhythm as the feel goes back to straight time, offering a set of tasty variations on the penultimate phrase on a repeated tag ending.
Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe