Sophisticated, top-drawer vocal duo featuring peerless jazz singer Martin, and hugely gifted composer, pianist and knight of the realm, Bennett. United by their love of great songs and with just their two voices and a piano, this promises to be an intimate, charming and hugely enjoyable exploration of the Great American Songbook and beyond, as heard to great effect on their superb recent album Witchcraft.
Acclaimed as the best ever British jazz singer in America’s leading jazz publication Jazz Times Martin was born to sing. Growing up in a house full of music in Wimbledon, South London, she’d learned all of Judy Garland’s songs by the time she was 12. But it was hearing Ella Fitzgerald’s legendary “Song Books” that changed her life inspiring her to go to Stage School and then to study singing in London and New York. A further seminal moment came at 18 when she saw the great improvising singer Betty Carter at Ronnie Scott’s. It confirmed what she already felt - she had to be a jazz singer. Like many singers Martin paid her dues and learnt her craft by embarking on the QE2, singing in the Theatre Bar for two years.
Back on dry land and just 21, Martin formed her first quartet (featuring guitar-great Jim Mullen). Her break came when renowned Scottish jazz label Linn signed her in 1991, the start of a creative relationship that is still going strong today. Martin’s 1992 debut “The Waiting Game” (Linn AKD 018) scored rave reviews and was chosen as a Times Album of the Year. Martin achieved one of her ambitions later that year, opening for Tony Bennett at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival. By the mid-nineties Martin had received the Rising Star and Best Vocalist awards at the British Jazz Awards while receiving rave reviews on her American debut with four sell-out shows in Washington DC. Another ambition was fulfilled with the recording of a live album at Ronnie Scott’s in 1995, an album that moved the New York Times to comment "In an era when young jazz singers tend to sound far too much like their idols, there is no mistaking the voice of Claire Martin who combines a cool, burnished tone with the ear of a born musician".
Increasingly popular across the pond, Martin recorded her fifth album "Make This City Ours" (Linn AKD 066) in New York reaching number 1 in the prestigious Gavin Charts and staying there for two weeks - the only European singer to achieve this. Future albums saw Martin collaborate with guitarist/producer Paul Stacey and she even had Noel Gallagher join her on a rendition of the Beatles classic "Help". Later that year she met Paul McCartney and delivered the re-working by hand. Her second album with Stacey featured a duet with the late great cult singer/songwriter John Martyn.
Martin continued to gather awards, winning the Best Vocalist category for the fourth time at the 2002 British Jazz Awards and going onto win Best Vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards in 2003 (when she performed a duet with a certain Mr Cullum, who won the Rising Star Award that year).
Richard Rodney Bennett
A musician of great versatility, the English composer Richard Rodney Bennett studied in London with Lennox Berkeley and Howard Ferguson, and subsequently with Pierre Boulez. In addition to his very varied work as a composer, he is also known as a pianist, not least in jazz performances.
Operas, Ballet & Film Music
Bennett's operas date from the 1960s and include the powerful The Mines of Sulphur, with Victory, based on Conrad, the last of the five. His ballet score Isadora was written in 1980. His film music includes scores for Far from the Madding Crowd, Murder on the Orient Express and Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Orchestral & Chamber Music
Bennett has written concertos for a number of different instruments, including two piano concertos and concertos for violin, viola, oboe, saxophone, double bass, horn, and bassoon. There is a similarly wide range of scoring in his chamber music, which includes a guitar concerto and a sonatina for the same instrument.