Thursday, 26 March 2015

Pure mellifluousness

On Tuesday Madam Arcati and I were thrilled to get tickets for a very special event indeed – an intimate evening of jazz and standards titled It Might As Well Be Spring, courtesy of two of the top performers in their genre, Miss Claire Martin OBE and Mr Joe Stilgoe (son of the legendary Sir Richard, telly favourite in the 1970s and co-writer of Phantom of the Opera with Lord Lloyd-Webber) – in the luxuriant surroundings of the fantabulosa “Crazy Coqs” cocktail lounge at Brasserie Zedel
The syncopated excellence of Claire Martin and Joe Stilgoe has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. Martin, one of our finest jazz divas, defines insouciance as she controls her perfect timbre, her voice swooping like a seabird from the most glorious moment of an occasional mezzo trills, down to a luxuriously resonant contralto. Her pitch is perfect and her timing pinpoint - there is truly nothing more a cabaret singer could offer.

And then there's Stilgoe. With a reverential impertinence that reminds one of Peter Shaffer’s young Amadeus, eschewing sheet music and much like a Transformer straight out of the recent movie franchise, he becomes one with his piano. Stilgoe really is that good.
- Jonathan Baz
I have always adored Miss Martin’s talents – we have on CD When Lights Are Low, a collection of excellent tunes from her lengthy musical partnership with the late, great Sir Richard Rodney Bennett – and she is highly regarded on the “jazz scene”, presenting as she does BBC Radio 3’s flagship Jazz Line-Up show.

Her voice was described on the Musical Theatre Review site thus: ”[Claire] is able to glide effortlessly from swinging a number to caressing it and, at times, she drops from a tone of pure mellifluousness to a timbre that is evocative of a gin and cigarettes habitué.” As we were to discover, she is simply a breath-taking vocal stylist - tackling a range of standards, from Judy Garland (Arlen’s Get Happy) to Lena Horne (on Michel Legrand’s Watch What Happens), with a little bit of everything else in between...

...including this wonderfully sassy (and, we thought, somewhat "Caro Emerald-esque") song, written (surprisingly) by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan fame - one of my favourite numbers of the whole evening, Do Wrong Shoes. [Unfortunately Miss Martin's interpretation is not online anywhere, so this is a rather cool version by Hazel Miller and Francesca Rubin]:

Mr Joe Stilgoe is someone of whose music, much to my chagrin, I had heard little before. After this performance, I shall certainly be making amends on that score! He is incredibly talented, and an often very funny entertainer – even reinterpreting the lyrics of such “untouchables” as They All Laughed or Wonderful World.

Not merely a miraculous jazz pianist (the things he can do with that keyboard!) but guitarist too - and he "plays" the mute trumpet, just by “tooting” with his mouth – he has a vocal style reminiscent of Harry Connick or even Bobby Darin (and definitely better than Jamie Cullum!), and could effortlessly switch between swing, “interpretive jazz” and smooth “lounge” sounds, as accompanist to Miss Martin and on his own numbers.

They complimented each other beautifully.

So much of “our kind of music” was here. So many classics by our staple diet of songwriters – Noel Coward, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Yip Harburg, Irving Berlin. In the hands of these two consummate professionals, we were absolutely in our element.

A perfect evening!

Claire Martin website

Joe Stilgoe website

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