An Evening with Claire Martin and the Montpellier Cello Quartet at Kings Place


Claire Martin (singer) with Montpellier Cello Quartet [Sarah Stevens, Dan James, Joe Giddey & Siriol Hugh-Jones]

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 22 March, 2014
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place, London

Best known for her collaboration with the late (and great) Richard Rodney Bennett, Claire Martin has long been among the most versatile and wide-ranging of singers – jazz or otherwise – and her latest venture, with the Montpellier Cello Quartet, is no exception.

Claire Martin with Montpellier Cello Quartet. Photograph: a breezy and rhythmically exacting workout, not a little redolent of Villa-Lobos, from the MCQ (who said that solo cellos were only for the opening of the 1812 and William Tell overtures?), Martin took to the stage with Kurt Weill’s soulful ‘My Ship’ in an insinuating arrangement by R. R. Bennett, continuing with Cole Porter’s blissful ‘Night and Day’ in an inventive re-casting courtesy of Dan James. ‘Edgeways’, Martin’s own paean to another’s indecision, was given added impetus via a nimble double bass contribution from MCQ’s Dan James, while Gershwin’s heartfelt ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ was dextrously transcribed by Simon Woolf. James again took to the bass for his take on Porter’s evergreen ‘Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love’. The MCQ then gave a soulful Elegie (Opus 21 no less) by Josef Werner – evidently the patron saint of the cello quartet – before Martin ended the first half with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s plaintive ‘Too Much in Love to Care’, and followed by Peter Davison’s resourceful take on the sublime ‘The Man with the Child in his Eyes’ by Kate Bush (much in the news these past few days!).

The MCQ opened the concert’s second half with a melting version of Herbert Hughes’s ‘My Lagan Love’, to be joined by Martin for Carly Simon’s acerbic ‘You’re So Vain’ – which duly found contrast in Greg Lake’s oblique love-song ‘Still … You Turn Me On’. A more poignant vein was evinced by Jeffrey Keyser’s ‘Feather Falls’, before humour was reintroduced in the guise of Walter Donaldson’s delectable ‘Makin’ Whoopee’. Thelonius Monk’s ‘‘Round Midnight’ must be, as Martin suggested, the most covered jazz standard of all time, though Cottle’s ingenious if over-busy arrangement rather went against the grain of the melody. The MCQ was more effectively deployed in Juan Rezzano’s stealthy ‘Entra Nomas’, then in a mesmeric re-working of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivión. Martin returned for a highlight of the evening in the evocative ‘Lost for Words’ (by Carroll Coates and James Kriegsmann, arranged by Peter Davison), before the scheduled programme rounded off with a flourish in Martin’s own number ‘The Dance Floor Reunion’. As an encore, Paul McCartney’s ‘She’s Leaving Home’ was touching in a transcription that was not so far removed from the original.

This was a varied, unpredictable and always entertaining evening that bodes well for the forthcoming tour and album by these artists. An ideal ambience, too, in the warm yet never hazy acoustic of Hall One at Kings Place – at its best in music-making such as this.

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