CD Review: Claire Martin & Richard Rodney Bennett -Witchcraft

Claire Martin & Richard Rodney Bennett –Witchcraft
(Linn AKD 359, Review by Chris Parker)

Since their first meeting in Glasgow in the early 1990s, singer Claire Martin and composer/pianist Richard Rodney Bennett have been what Martin calls ‘firm friends’, their relationship cemented by a common interest in the subtleties of songwriting and jazz singing, not to mention cigarettes and vodka.

On this album, they perform as a (delightfully informal but consistently musicianly) duo, her intimate, deceptively unfussy vocal style perfectly complemented by his flawlessly eloquent piano. Their material is all mined from the Cy Coleman songbook, his celebrated classics (‘The Best is Yet to Come’, ‘Witchcraft’) interspersed with less celebrated but none the less touching, wry love songs (‘Sometime When You’re Lonely’, ‘Nobody Does It Like Me’) and the odd snappy social satire (the Lehreresque Ev’rybody Today is Turning On’, co-written by Michael Mike Stewart, brother of celebrated folk singer/songwriter John).

Martin might have been specially created to interpret these self-deprecating, witty but poignant songs, her ostensibly conversational delivery underpinned by firm adherence to all the classic jazz-singing essentials: crystal-clear diction, a sophisticated sense of swing, a keen intelligence able to wring every last drop of significance from the sharpest lyric. Bennett, too, though not a singing virtuoso, has an affecting, attractively lived-in voice, and so the pair’s duets are entertaining and emotive, and the album as a whole is, as one recent reviewer commented, ‘wise and cultivated … altogether satisfying’.

Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett will appear with the Nash Ensemble and guests in a celebration of Richard Rodney Bennett’s 75th birthday, in a late night concert at the Wigmore Hall on Wednesday March 23rd

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