Something Old, Something New
Celebrating the Great American Songbook with music & lyrics by Ira & George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Willie Nelson, Joe Stilgoe, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, K. D. Lang, Ben Mink, Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt, and Gus Kahn
Claire Martin (singer) & Joe Stilgoe (piano, singer & guitar)
Reviewed by: Hannah Sander
Reviewed: 16 August, 2013
Venue: The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Husky-voiced Claire Martin and singer-pianist Joe Stilgoe make for a pleasing combination. United by a shared love for American standards, they made their debut this week at The Crazy Coqs presenting a mixed programme dominated by classic Gershwin and Porter. “We’ve called this Old and New, and that’s what it is”, Martin explained, before introducing her favourite K. D. Lang song, a new addition to her repertory. A pair of tunes from Oklahoma! had prefaced this. Elsewhere there was a bluesy Patsy Cline piece, and to top it all off some new jazzy numbers by Stilgoe himself. It made for an enjoyable if curious evening.
Completely out of place in the set, but great fun nevertheless, was a comedy song Stilgoe had written recently, about flapjack. “Why do rich people all bake nowadays?”, he complained merrily before bursting into patter. The number had the pace and wit of Matt Parker and Trey Stone, the current darlings of the musical-theatre world and the team behind The Book of Mormon. Later on in the evening he whistled jaunty countermelodies to Martin’s sultry tunes. In the encore he pretended to play the trumpet! He seemed shy of his enviable musical ability though, and hid behind his humour. At the climax of a flaming solo passage in ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top’ (Oklahoma!), he interrupted himself to remark that “it was quite a bumpy ride”. The audience laughed but he had spoilt the magic of his thumping, virtuosic improvisation. Elsewhere he prefaced his own compositions with self-deprecating remarks. Martin, meanwhile, sat on a stool looking frosty. While Stilgoe charmed us with his wry smiles and neat jokes, she shot irritable glances at waiters. His face was alive throughout, his enjoyment at performing both tangible and infectious. Martin looked as though she would rather be anywhere else.
Musically however it was a different story. Martin’s gravelly voice was as sensual and feather-light as ever. Stilgoe’s singing was rather generic in quality. He had the more powerful voice and possessed a greater versatility and a wider range; but Martin excelled. True, the programme packed in an enormous breadth of styles, and she was unable to mimic the voluptuous heartache of Patsy Cline in ‘Crazy’, but vocally this was a flawless performance. She performed every number in the same sultry, breathy, understated manner for which she has long been adored.As an accompanist, Stilgoe was fine, alternating piano for guitar without a pause, and joining in the singing with perky harmonies. As a soloist he was entertaining. Singing together the pair was at their best; she seemed less distant from the audience. He seemed delighted to be making music with her. Smiling and pouting their way through favourites such as Cole Porter’s ‘Let’s do it (Let’s fall in love)’, from the Gershwins’ ‘Lady be good’ and their ‘Our love is here to stay’, they were a treat to behold.
- Claire Martin & Joe Stilgoe are at The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London W1 until Saturday 17 August 2013
- Bookings 020 7734 4888