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Claire Martin

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Had Claire Martin become a trumpeter instead of a singer, she would have been compared to Miles Davis and Chet Baker rather than Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, or Lee Morgan. Or as an alto saxophonist, she would have had more in common with Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond than Jackie McLean, Phil Woods, or Gene Quill. Greatly influenced by the cool-school singers of the 1950s, the young British diva clearly owes an artistic debt to such greats as Chris Connor, June Christy, and Julie London — all of whom, like Martin, favored subtlety and restraint over aggression. But her inspirations don't stop there — born in London in 1967 and raised in a rock & roll era, the smoky, seductive Martin has also been influenced by contemporary singers ranging from Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush.

Martin was only six when she entered theatrical school, and by her early teens, had been named Best Solo Vocalist twice by the British Arts Awards. Before debuting at Ronnie Scott's in London at 21, Martin supported herself as everything from a singing waitress to a secretary. Martin went on to become one of England's top jazz vocalists, and the British Jazz Awards exalted her as Best New Jazz Artist of 1994 and Best Jazz Singer of 1995. However, she was little known in the U.S. as of late 1996. In October 1996, she visited New York and recorded with American jazz players for the first time, including alto saxophonist Antonio Hart.