Martin_secret_span3
May 2005

Claire Martin
Secret Love
Linn Records

Remarkably, given the immense musical riches that have poured forth from across the pond throughout the past century, there has never been a truly great British female jazz singer. Yes, Annie Ross was born in Surrey, but she was just three when she moved to the States and is definitely more a musical product of her California upbringing. Some would argue Cleo Laine fits the bill, but I've never found Laine's highly stylized trilling particularly appealing or, more to the point, jazz-centric. Lately, though, British jazz canaries have been busily making up for lost time. Clare Teal scored one of the biggest critical and popular successes of 2004 with her sublimely crafted Don't Talk, as did Russian-born/British-weaned Katie Melua with Call Off the Search. Equally bright young things Gwyneth Herbert, Amy Winehouse and Sylvie Lewis are now yapping at their heels. But high atop the impressive heap is seasoned pro Claire Martin. Since Secret Love is intended as the album that will establish Martin stateside, I'm guessing that the title is intentionally tongue-in-cheek. For in her native land, love for Martin is no secret whatsoever. It is, in fact, her ninth hit album. The Sunday Times has dubbed Martin "the Madonna of British Jazz," a statement that completely misdiagnoses the nature of Martin's appeal. What makes her unique is that she's not a great jazz singer, but rather the combination of two great jazz singers and one of the all-time great pop stylists, blending the jazz smarts of Anita O'Day, the warm-cool coziness of Chris Connor and the slow-melting, icy hauteur of Jo Stafford into one bracing cocktail. Listen to Martin dazzle her way through a dozen tracks, hurdling everything from the heart-crushing ache of "Where Do You Start?" the sophisticated ennui of "Love Is a Bore" and the raw, soul-stirring power of Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello's "God Give Me Strength" with elegant ease, and you'll instantly join the growing legion on this side of the Atlantic determined that she remain a secret no more.

Originally published in May 2005
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