June 2011

WitchcraftTwo of Britain's Top Musicians Team Up for an Impeccable Album

Linn Records
Format: 24-bit/88.2kHz FLAC (download)

Musical Performance
Sound Quality
Overall Enjoyment

Music lovers have always perceived Claire Martin as a talented singer, but this disc proves she has arrived as an impeccable master artist and one of the greatest living voices in jazz. Listen to "Would You Believe," the last cut from this download, if you have any doubts. Richard Rodney Bennett, film-music composer, concert-hall composer, and jazz pianist-singer, is a true musical everyman. You never feel like he's a serious musician "playing down," as his multifaceted talents form an inseparable whole. He and Martin have been performing together for years, and their partnership has created a rare and special collaboration where the superlative product is truly more than the sum of its parts.

For this program, the remarkable duo turns its attention to songs by American composer Cy Coleman, mainly his pairings with lyricist Carolyn Leigh. Three of their biggest hits are here -- "Witchcraft," "The Rules of the Road," and "The Best Is Yet to Come" (performed with wit and a devilishly clever surprise ending) -- alongside lesser-known gems such as "Let Me Down Easy" (a poignant solo spot for Bennett), "On Second Thought," and "On the Other Side of the Tracks." Shifting away from Leigh as lyricist, we find "Nobody Does It Like Me," Coleman's stellar collaboration with Dorothy Fields, and "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life," one of the definitive torch songs of all time, written with Joseph Allan McCarthy.

A Linn spokesperson told me that this session was recorded and mastered at 24/192 and that the 24/88.2 versions (FLAC or WMA) were downsampled. The result here sounds effortless and natural. In the version I downloaded, piano and voices have appealing presence without a trace of shrillness, and subtle shadings and phrasings are delineated with clarity and accuracy. To suit your particular needs and equipment, Linn offers a wide range of downloads for this album. In addition to the ones already mentioned, there are also CD-quality FLAC and WMA, and MP3, not to mention a Hybrid Multichannel SACD! Prices vary from $11.00 for the MP3 up to $27.00 for the 24/192 download. The options are all made very clear in Linn's detailed listing, and as usual with Linn, there are audio previews of each track that you can audition before you buy.

Be sure to listen to: "That's My Style" (written with Peggy Lee) starts like it's going to be a solo for Bennett, but in the middle Martin comes in with "I'm in Love Again." It's an unexpected goosebump moment that will send a pleasant little chill down your spine.

. . . Rad Bennett