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Claire Martin: He Never Mentioned Love

Eleven Claire Martin albums have preceded He Never Mentioned Love, and if none are part of your jazz library, then there’s a significant gap in your knowledge and appreciation of contemporary vocalists. This time around, the finely tuned Brit pays tribute to the songs and spirit of Shirley Horn. Or, as Martin more articulately puts it, she spends “a really heartfelt hour remembering someone who I really love.” Martin, whose voice is one of the most satisfying instruments in jazz, doesn’t sound like Horn, nor does she attempt to. But they do share a dusky, contemplative self-assurance, making it eminently clear that each track is equally indebted to heart and mind. A salute to Horn demands not only sublimely intelligent singing, but also inspired piano work. Since Martin doesn’t play, she wisely calls on the superb Gareth Williams. Additional instrumental highlights come from guest guitarist Jim Mullen, working his subtle brand of magic on “Everything Must Change,” and blazing sax accompaniment by Nigel Hitchcock on an “All Night Long” that sounds like an Edward Hopper painting brought to urgently shadowy life. And, is there a finer expression of love for a lost pal than “A Song for You,” especially as Martin handles it, treating Leon Russell’s delicate lyric like a priceless treasure that demands care both gentle and firm?

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