Considering that she has sung duets with Richard Rodney Bennett, appeared around the world with bands of every shape and size, and with many of today’s leading jazz musicians, it seems impossible that this could be Claire Martin’s debut album with a big band, but it is. In fact there are two: a conventional setup of brass, saxes and rhythm, plus a full concert orchestra.
That’s where the mysterious art of orchestration comes in, of which the remarkable young arranger Callum Au is already a master. Put the two together and the result is what many strive for but few achieve: popular music that sounds both familiar and new. By recasting songs such as Hello, Young Lovers and I Concentrate On You, Martin and Au bring them to life, sometimes quite startlingly. The tenor saxophone solo in the latter, by Nadim Teimoori, is out of this world.
Martin can sometimes make a lyric sound like thinking aloud; she does it here with Pure Imagination, and the strings match her perfectly – not just quiet but hushed. That’s what you get with a brilliant score and 82 hand-picked musicians.