I talked to Claire Martin about her forthcoming five-night residency with Sir Richard Rodney Bennett at the Pizza on the Park from Tuesday Feb 10th until Valentine’s Day.
What are the origins of her collaboration with Sir RRB?
It was 1991. She was in her mid 20’s and had just recorded the first album for her now regular record label, Glasgow-based Linn. For those of us with long memories that’s “The Waiting Game.” I was relieved to discover from reviews, that I wasn’t the only sad bloke in 1992 pressing the repeat button, insistently, to get people to listen to this great new jazz singer singing Thomas Dolby’s song “The keys to your Ferrari.”
So, the first meeting with Bennett. She was singing in the Strathclyde Lounge of the Royal Concert Halls in Glasgow. He’d been checking out the main hall before a concert and dropped in to listen. . He introduced himself. Told her how much he’d enjoyed her singing. Now Claire is somebody who tends to get results: in this instance she persuaded Bennett to write the liner notes for the first album… and they stayed in touch as friends.
He at the time was working with other singers, notably one born in Natchez, Mississipi called Maud Runnells. Also known as Mrs Laurie Holloway. Also, and best, known by her stage name: the wonderful, late, lamented Marion Montgomery.
The first collaboration as a duo for Martin and Bennett was in 2000. So this is now a seasoned partnership, and it really works. I heard them three years ago in the unlikely setting of the theatre of Bennett’s old quaker school in Reading. The place was transformed. Quakers don’t believe in miracles – we all get some things wrong…
Claire Martin and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett are not exactly “Two Sleepy People.” Bennett lives in New York, Martin in Brighton with her daughter.
Both are the kind of busy person who excels at many things, always on the case with some project or other. On stage they are both engaging personalities completely at ease in the setting. These evenings are sessions which they clearly enjoy and thrive on, which somehow get shoe-horned into schedules. Last year they were at the Algonquin. A couple of years ago in the Barbican Hall.
Martin feels that the songs work in some venues and not in others. For her the room at Pizza on the Park is definitely a favourite.
There’s a fuller biography of Claire Martin in the “New Album” section of her
I’m booked in for Valentine’s Day. Three weeks to find myself a date.