British Chanteuse Comes To America
By Sidney Bechet-Mandela
When British singer Claire Martin was in her 20’s, her job often brought her to New York City and in her spare time she would raid Manhattan record stores in search of good songs. Now that she’s 30, Martin came to New York armed with eleven songs and the result is her third album “Make This City Ours.”
“To be completely honest, it’s a really good marketing idea to have recorded in America,” she said through her thick British accent. “It does seem to hold a lot of weight in certain peoples eyes.”
That would be the general jazz public she is trying to impress because many critics and magazines, including this one, were so dazzled by her last album “The Waiting Game,” that it made many top ten lists in 1996. The Americans were late in joining the chorus, for this former QE2 lounge singer went from crossing the ocean on famous cruise ship to winning the British Jazz Awards’ 1994 Best New Artist for her first album “Old Boyfriends.”
As more people are turned on to this strikingly clear new voice on the scene they will discover that she has her own unique style in not only delivering a song, but unearthing songs. These finds, often by very well known composers, become possessions of Miss Martin once she sings them.
I think I’ve learned over the years that you can take standards and you can sing them as is, very nice,” she said. “But if you want to get something different and I want to get a Claire Martin sound, and I want the band to get the band to have a style, it has to lay in the writing or in the arranging of these standards. I try to find something new in the arrangements and make them catchy, give them a little riff or something, make them sound like my band sounds.”
But as has been the case for many young singers raised on post- Beatles/Motown pop, Martin is not just concentrating on reworking the music of tin pan alley singers, but modern jazz and/or pop performers whose craft peaked closer to the end of the millenium. From her first album the composers were as varied as Rupert Holmes, Tom Waits and Burt Bachrach to Dorothy Fields and Sigmund Romberg. The diversity extended on “The Waiting Game,” and frankly added to the charm of that superb outing. The list of writers included Joni Mitchell, Rodgers & Heart, Tadd Dameron, Betty Carter, Thomas Dolby, Sammy Cahn and Leiber & Stoller.
“A good song will stand up in a piano bar,” she exclaimed. “I don’t care if it’s a country and western song or a punk rock song. “I try to go for songs that obviously I can relate to, (songs) that I think have got a good message that’s meaningful to me that I think I can portray in a way that’s honest. I tend to stay away from the sort of vixen songs. I’m quite like energetic lyrics whether they’re dark or sort of more light in emotion. I don’t know if I go for a type. Certain things grab me and that’s it really. It’s quite difficult for me to put my finger on.”
On the new album, throw out “How Deep Is The Ocean,” and there may not be any recognizable titles except for fans of Gino Vanelli, Milton Nascimento, Dan Siegel and Blossom Dearie. She also does a remake of “Estate(Summer), which was made famous by Shirley Horn and written by Horn’s former manager and the producer of “Make This City Ours,” Joel Siegel.
The album closes with a very very funny song called “Collagen Lips.” Martin said the song, which is an anthem to liposuction, appealed to the feminist in her. “The message is to women about how we’re sort of force fed this image of how we should look. All these people are getting themselves chopped up to pieces trying to look like Barbietm and Kentm.
“I think it’s a skill as a singer to be able to take the listener through every emotion,” she continued. It’s very easy to tug on people’s heartstrings and go for the heartbreak thing and sing songs about love and unrequited love. We’ve all been there and that’s an easy thing to tap into but I think the art is also to make people feel good and to be able to sing a swinger and sing a happy song and relate that mood as well. So I try and do all of them and I love them all equally, I think.”
Martin came to New York’s Clinton’s recording studio with her pianist and trumpeter Gareth Williams and Gerard Presencer. In New York she hired bassist Peter Washington, saxophonist Antonio Hart and drummer Gregory Hutchinson who she heard live with Betty Carter.
“It was a good fun trip. There’s a fire and energy and an excitement in New York. It was great to get an injection of its energy.”
For More Information visit the Claire Martin Website.