This is another stunning album that features Claire Martin doing what she does best.

Stunt Records STUCD 23021

Scott Dunn (conductor, arranger, piano on tracks 15 & 16); Claire Martin (vocals); Rob Barron (piano); Matt Skelton (drums); Jeremy Brown (double bass); Ryan Quigley (flugelhorn) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Recorded 24 & 25 August 2022

It is now more than a decade since the composer, pianist and song writer Richard Rodney Bennett passed away and it is fitting that the occasion be remembered by two people that not only collaborated with him but were also close friends.

Conductor and arranger Scott Dunn’s association with Bennett goes back to the 1990s where they would often play as two-piano partners, and as Dunn would say “he taught me how to play for singers… and how to orchestrate.”

Similarly, Claire Martin also met Bennett in the early nineties at a venue in Glasgow where the singer was performing. Meeting after the gig the two struck up a friendship that was to prove lasting and productive with the pair performing regular together and recording three fine albums.

With I Watch You Sleep Claire Martin once again finds herself working with one of the world’s finest arrangers and with a full orchestra at her disposal. On this occasion in the form of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra alongside a jazz trio, and once again demonstrates that this is setting that suits her very nicely delivering a world class performance of songs written by Richard Rodney Bennett as well as some of his favourite songs of other composers.

Over the course of more than an hour, Claire delivers up a flawless demonstration of her art with some lush arrangements from Scott Dunn that seem perfect for her. Vernon Duke’s ‘Autumn In New York’ has rarely sounded better, and I’m hard pushed to think of an arrangement that can surpass it, and Harold Arlen’s ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon’ is taken a tempo that is rarely heard, nice and slow as was preferred by Bennett himself.

There are a couple of exquisite songs penned by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by F.R. Underwood and Bennett in the gently swinging ‘I’ll Always leave The Door A Little Open’ with a superb arrangement for jazz trio from Rob Barron and Dunn and an equally stunning ‘I Wish I’d Met You’ with Claire accompanied by just piano and bass. The trilogy of arrangements by Barron and Dunn is completed by another swinger, ‘Don’t Play Games With Love’ that occupy a place mid-way through the set.

Bennett and Underwood share writing credits for ‘Early To Bed’ which is given a playful reading by Claire and the orchestra, and Scott Dunn pulls out all the stops on an arrangement of Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s ‘My Ship’ that is jaw dropping.

The album climaxes with two a couple of duets for piano and voice that finds Scott at the keyboard to accompany Claire on two of Richard Rodney Bennett’s favourite songs by Harold Arlen, ‘I Wonder What became Of Me’ and ‘It Was Written In The Stars’.

This is another stunning album that features Claire Martin doing what she does best. Whether with an orchestra, jazz trio or in a duet with piano, she is able to find her way into the music, and bringing her own style and class to everything she sings.

Reviewed by Nick Lea