I have to admit that although I was aware of Claire Marin and her reputation as a great Jazz singer, this is actually the first time I have managed to catch her in concert. As always, there is that question of will the event live up to everything you have read? Well I am sure Claire Martin fans (and there seemed a lot in the audience tonight) will not be surprised that my answer to that question is a big yes. Claire Martin is a great Jazz singer, but also has that vocal range and timing to allow her to move so easily from swing standards to rock n roll classics.
This show/tour is officially called “It’s a Swinging Affair” and matched with the voice and saxophone of Ray Gelato and backed by a great trio of David Newton (Piano), David Whitford (acoustic bass) and Matt Home (drums) it certainly turned out to be just that for the evening.
Two very tight sets saw us through classics from the leading ladies of Jazz/Swing including “I Love Being With You (Peggy Lee), “Now Baby or Never ( Billie Holiday –her centenary this year folks) and “Can’t We Be Friends (Ella Fitzgerald). Along the way we also took in classics such as “Two of a Kind” by Johnny Mercer which was performed as a great duet by Claire and Ray.
Music from Ray Charles, Babs Gonzales, Louis Jordan and Louis Prima (to name a few) also took us from swing into Be-Bop and into that early Rock n Roll sound that I love. When you hear someone like Ray playing and singing these early numbers you realise just how easily everything evolved into much of the sound we call Rock n Roll – even if they did not even have a name for it then and were still waiting for Elvis to come along and add his blend of music into the mix.
Claire and Ray are old friends and that just shows on stage with how comfortable they both are on stage together and that brings an ease on stage and timing that makes some of these challenging songs look just so effortless to an audience. I say challenging because that is the great mystery of some of these laid back swing numbers – they look and sound easy, but unless you are very good they are so easy to just get so wrong. Claire and Ray are very good and together just seem to have so much fun with their music.
I have to admit that I preferred the second set in this show. Not because the songs were any better, or performed any differently, but simply because it just seemed to have a far more relaxed atmosphere to it as Claire and Ray moved deeper into their musical comfort zones with an audience that had obviously had such a good time with the first set.
Not ready yet at this show, but coming soon is their new CD “We’ve Got A World That Swings”. The title taken from a song of the same name performed tonight and originally from the 1963 Jerry Lewis film “The Nutty Professor”.
Claire Martin is a great singer (not just a Jazz singer) and interpreter of songs and paired with Ray’s obvious love of that early rock n roll sound, this was a great fusion of musical styles on stage. The natural acoustics in The Queen’s Hall were just perfect for that sound too.
Also nice to hear Claire thank the lighting and sound people tonight as we often forget how hard they work as part of the team.
Review by Tom King