On Friday 19th October BASCA presented a Gold Badge Award to acclaimed jazz singer Claire Martin OBE, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to music. The award was presented by saxophonist and band leader Peter Long and ahead of the ceremony BASCA caught up with Claire:
How do you feel about receiving a Gold Badge Award from the songwriting and composing community?
I am incredibly honoured to be receiving a Gold Badge Award. I’m amongst some extraordinarily talented people and feel very lucky to be included.
What has been the most pivotal moment in your career?
In the early 1990’s I was signed by the Scottish label Linn Records. This was career changing for me as an up and coming jazz musician because they showed belief in me at a young age and gave me 100% artist freedom to develop and grow. I am still with the label and very grateful for all their support over the years. Linn hi-fi is the best in the world and I’ve nearly got the full sound system!
Which person has been the most influential figure in your career and why?
It has to be my late and much missed friend, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. We met in a bar in Glasgow when I was in my mid-twenties and he instantly became not only a best friend, but a musical mentor. Richard was incredibly generous with his time and introduced me to singers, helped me to understand harmony and arranging, made me realise the benefits of disciplined rehearsals and perhaps most importantly, how to have fun on stage. We worked together as a duo for about 10 years leading up to his death in 2012. We played mostly in the UK but also in his home town of New York. Those were the days!! I miss him terribly.
What one piece of advice would you give your young self, starting out in music?
Stick with the piano lessons and kick the cigarettes. I managed the latter.
Touring and performing at festivals around the world continues to be a significant part of your life. What is the most useful piece of advice you would give to musicians on tour?
Being on tour as a jazz musician very often has many challenges due to tight budgets. There will always be a certain amount of compromise involved. Unlike pop music, it’s very unusual to have a tour manager, sound technician, or anyone else on the road with you so it’s really important to be organised. I’ve become a good leader over the years, but this has taken trial and error. The most useful piece of advice would be good advanced travel planning and if you’re a vocalist try and stay as quiet as possible during the day times. That is easier said than done!
Your work as a broadcaster is also widely known as is your support of young jazz talent through your radio playlist, who should we be listening out for?
There is a young pianist really making waves called Fergus McCreadie. I think he is absolutely awesome and I urge everyone to listen to his debut album ‘Turas’.
As an established artist, performers such as yourself are the inspiration for many young musicians. Who or what continues to inspire your creativity today?
I’m still listening and learning from the greats – Shirley Horn, Carmen McRae and Andy Bey are always top of my list. Plus I’m a huge fan of Kurt Elling who I am longing to sing with. Now into my 32nd year as a professional singer, it’s important to stay as keen and as interested in other artists and keep an ear to the ground for new music, but also to keep going back to the greats who never fail to inspire me. Tony Bennett is incredibly inspiring to us all!
You have sung duets with some of the greatest voices in the business. Which singing collaborations have been an inspiration to you and why?
I love Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The ultimate pairing. Nobody touches them. If you’re looking for jazz artistry, heart, swing and authenticity then you just need to listen to the 1956 album ‘Ella and Louis’ with the Oscar Peterson quartet and you’ll be in heaven. The album photograph for this record is the least pretentious cover in the history of jazz music and fills me with joy!!
This interview was first published on www.basca.org.uk