Ian & Claire Martin, Purcell Room
Jack Massarik, 5th December 2008
These two singers work together often and enjoy a remarkable understanding. They harmonise readily, with Claire Martin's smooth, husky tone tempering Ian Shaw's more bluesy edge, while Shaw's piano backing gives them a rare rhythmic sureness.
Their tenth annual pre-Christmas stocking was a typically entertaining mixture of jazz, blues and cabaret. It being so early in December, Christmas numbers were shelved at first in favour of Harold Arlen classics (Blues in the Night, Get Happy) and a Joni Mitchell number, Borderline.
We also learned about aspiring songwriter Chester Babcock, who successfully changed his name to Jimmy Van Heusen after buying a shirt of that name. "He had a sister," Shaw added, "called Polly Primark." Only after the interval, when the pair resurfaced in comical Santa hats, did the trusty Yuletide medley appear. Winter Wonderland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) all had worthy chord progressions. Happiness is the Best Facelift, one of Joni's seasonal family-squabble numbers, had much better words than music.
Martin's special tribute was Love is Real, a ballad by Esbjorn Svensson, the Swedish pianist tragically killed in a scuba-diving accident this summer. Happier moments came on two Stevie Wonder songs, Knocks Me Off My Feet and If It's Magic, featuring the joyful polyphonic scatting this pair do so well.