algonquin MartinBennett

British musical stars Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett love American music, and among their favorites are the songs of Irving Berlin, subject of Claire and Richard’s sparkling new salute, “A Couple of Swells,” from May 31st through June 18th, the final show of the Oak Room’s Spring season.

The very pretty Ms. Martin’s head voice may recall June Christy while her rich chest voice is somewhat reminiscent of Cleo Laine, but make no mistake: Martin is a seasoned vocalist/performer and the end result is uniquely original. Mercifully, the act is straight forward, without distracting patter and historical references. Sir Rodney gives subtle support on piano and offers a solid left hand, which is a good rhythmic stand-in for the non-existent rhythm section. 

Berlin gems with arrangements by Richard and vocals by Claire include a catchy opening syncopation of Puttin’ on the Ritz, a terrific rendition of Change Partners, a strikingly insightful What’ll I Do?, and the best versions of Let’s Face the Music and Dance and Cheek to Cheek we’ve heard in years. There are a smattering of lesser known tunes as well, contrasted by such tried and true standards as How Deep is the Ocean and Midnight Choo Choo.

Confirming the old adage , , , less is more, Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett offer a fitting conclusion to a memorable season of the fabled Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel and deserve you patronage. A class act. Don’t miss it.

Shows are Tuesday through Thursday at 8:30 and Friday and Saturday at 8:30 and 11, with a cover charge of $50 weeknights and late weekends, and $60 early weekend shows, plus either a $30 minimum or $60 prix fixe dinner, with dinner seating at 7. Reservations: 212 419 9331 or bmcgurn@algonquinhotel.com

Renowned for her unmistakably unique “cool, burnished tone” (NY Times) and the flawless technique of “England’s most impressive female jazz artist” (LA Times), Claire Martin has performed with such artists as James Brown, Curtis Stigers, Jamie Cullum and Tony Bennett, who lists her among his favorite singers. She made a smash debut at the Algonquin in 2007 and followed up with Richard Rodney Bannett in 2009 in an acclaimed show celebrating the music of Cy Coleman. She has released 12 recordings for Linn Records and has a jazz interview show on BBC 3.

Knighted in 1998 for his services to music, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett is one of the UK’s most renowned musical figures, having achieved phenomenal success across a wide range of genres. In 2006 he premiered “Reflections on a Scottish Folk Song” commissioned by HRH Prince Charles in memory of the Queen Mother. He is an Oscar-nominated film composer…for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Far From the Madding Crowd and Murder on the Orient Express.

He has enjoyed great success as a jazz pianist, arranger and vocalist, having appeared with Marion Montgomery, Dame Cleo Laine, Mary Cleere Haran and Annie Ross.

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