Format: 24-bit/96kHz FLAC (download)
Musical Performance: ****1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****1/2
Midway through Too Much in Love to Care, I thought, "Score another hit for Claire Martin." I hear a lot of music, and always look forward to new albums by a favorite entertainer. Peggy Lee was an example; I gobbled up every new album of hers that I could afford. I didn’t need reviews -- I knew that if Lee had recorded it, it would be wonderful. Claire Martin has become my most eagerly anticipated artist for this decade -- and, as she’s only 45, probably for a few decades to come.
I love to discover new singers and share in their freshness, their joy of recording for the first time; but I also enjoy hearing from seasoned pros who can add to youthful excitement some nuance and wisdom. Martin is such an artist -- one who knows just when to do what. She knows when to trail a phrase, when to let it expire more quickly, when to use full voice, when to whisper, when to use vibrato -- all subtle ways to bring words to life. Because she "gets" every song she sings, the listener does, too.
Though Martin is a British artist, she occasionally travels to the U.S., and chose to record Too Much in Love to Care, her first album of tunes from the Great American Songbook, at New York’s Avatar Studios, with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Kenny Washington, and Steve Wilson on saxophone and flute. It begins with the title track, by James J. Kriegsmann and Carroll Coates, taken in a Latin vein by percussion, bass, and piano, and ends with Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s ruminative "Too Late Now." In between we’re treated to such welcome chestnuts as "Embraceable You," "Time After Time," "How Long Has This Been Going On?," and "I Only Have Eyes for You." In some tunes it’s just Martin and Barron, voice and piano working hand in glove to create some amazingly intimate moments. Each time another instrument is added, there seems to be a good reason for it, and not merely because the player is on the payroll.
I converted the FLAC files to AIFF at 24-bit/96kHz and found the sound rich and warm. Martin’s voice is perfectly centered, the instruments behind her. Though the clarity is fine, I find myself wishing, as I do with most jazz albums from Linn Records, that the soundstage were just a wee bit wider. Still, given such an active center, everything is clear as can be, even in such intricate passages as the opening to "You Turned the Tables on Me," which features all five musicians.
Downloads have long been the future of hi-fi -- it’s about time they were the present. Linn presents several different possibilities and configurations, ranging from 320kbps MP3 and 16/44.1 to 24/192 FLAC -- and for those who don’t yet download, there’s a multichannel SACD/CD. Linn has made it easy for everyone to hear this wonderful set of songs; don’t miss it.
. . . Rad Bennett