Album Review: Claire Martin – Believin’ It

Claire Martin

Believin’ It

(Linn AKD 563)

This is Claire Martin’s 20th album for Linn Records and it has all of the hallmarks that you would expect from Britain’s top jazz vocalist: assured lines, technical mastery and some hard swinging tunes. Her all Swedish trio are with her every step of the way. Pianist Martin Sjöstedt has arranged most of the tunes on the album and contributes some fine solos and top class accompaniment, whilst bassist Niklas Fernqvist and drummer Daniel Fredriksson provide a solid backing.

The opening track Come Runnin’ is tightly arranged and conveys the swinging joy that is present throughout the album, whilst the title track, Believin’ It, makes you feel that Martin is on the edge of what is humanly possible for a vocalist, but if anyone can squeeze a lot of words into a line it’s Claire Martin. Listen carefully and you’ll hear her breathe in, at just the right moments.

Pop songs such as I’m Not In Love and Broken Wings add variety to an album that features 13 well-chosen tracks. Timeline shows more of Martin’s excellent vocal dexterity, adding her own lyrics to Pat Metheny’s original from Michael Brecker’s album Time Is Of The Essence.

Martin excels at singing ballads and Joe Locke’s A Little More Each Day brings out the richness and smokiness in her voice, particularly in her stunning low register notes.

An eye-opener is the sheer virtuosity and flexibility of bassist Niklas Fernqvist who produces some great swinging bass lines, erudite solos and a grooving introduction to his arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s You Dream Flat Tires.

John Surman and Karin Krog’s Cherry Tree Song exhibits the versatility of Claire Martin, a classically inspired piece that takes in 19th century Romanticism in the piano introduction and some lovely arco playing from Fernqvist.

The Great City keeps to the Killer Joe-style groove used by arranger Quincy Jones on Shirley Horn’s album Horn of Plenty and features a bluesy and free-flowing solo from pianist Martin Sjöstedt as well as Martin’s interpretational skills; witness her rhythmic playfulness towards the end of the track. And don’t forget to check out Eddie Myer’s sleeve notes and the additional lyrics by Imogen Ryall on the title track.

Charlie Anderson

Claire Martin, vocals; Martin Sjöstedt, piano; Niklas Fernqvist, double bass; Daniel Fredriksson, drums.