We sat down with our 2018 Nimmo Artist in Residence Claire Martin OBE to chat about her WMC Residency, her love of jazz and her friendship with Liane Carroll.

Claire will be performing her first concert at WMC on Wed 14 Feb. 

Can you tell us a bit about your Residency here at Wiltshire Music Centre?

The Residency is really about three things: singing with friends, intimate performances, and giving young people the opportunity to experience what I love about swing and jazz music. I’ll be contributing several performances this year, firstly my concert with Liane Carroll who is a dear friend and superb musician; the performance with the Wiltshire Youth Jazz Orchestra (WYJO) and finally a third coming up in the autumn season. I guess the teaching side of things comes in with the workshop I am running for young musicians which really engages with young talent and lets them in on a few trade secrets I’ve picked up over the years in the business.

I’m incredibly proud to be the first female jazz artist to have a residency at Wiltshire Music Centre! It’s a wonderful thing for women in jazz and the industry more widely, and it’s an absolute treat to be here!

"I’m incredibly proud to be the first female jazz artist to have a residency at Wiltshire Music Centre"

On 25 March you will be performing with WYJO at the Centre, this is a really exciting opportunity for young musicians. What made you want to do this and what can they look forward to in working with you?

With WYJO, I’ll be giving them a selection of arrangements from the BBC Big Band, to really give them a unique opportunity to experience a professional arrangement. They’ll be a lot of fun, but I also want to stretch them musically! There’ll be classics from some of the great jazz divas such as Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and other swinging arrangements. I’ll also give them the opportunity to play a Patrick Williams arrangement, and also a couple by Barry Forgie who is the long-standing conductor of the BBC Big Band. WYJO will get a flavour of working on some really swinging pieces with a professional singer, which is great for any young musician!

I really wanted to perform with WYJO because I believe that we need to address the gender imbalance of Big Bands, and the swing genre. It’s fantastic to see so many talented young women dedicated to jazz and this incredible art form, and to pushing swing performance in new and exciting directions. I want them to experience that juggernaut sound of the brass and feel the thrilling danger of the genre that keeps the art form alive! It’s all about extending a hand to the next generation of players and singers.

"it’s fantastic to see so many talented young women dedicated to jazz"

You’re performing with your dear friend Liane Carroll on 14 February, what can audiences expect from your performance?

I’ve known Liane for around thirty years, and she was one of the first people I met in London when I first started out there. We love sitting round a piano and singing our favourite songs from Gershwin to Bacharach, Tom Waits to Harold Arlen. We know each other so well that we’ve got around fifty songs we can play at the drop of the hat, just like we would singing alone together, so our concert is going to have a really intimate, living-room feel. Just like we’re popping out of the TV!

We’re going to do all the greats from the American Songbook, but we’ll keep it fresh. I really want to get the audience involved in the music, take suggestions and see where the night takes us. Hopefully it will be a perfect antidote to all the bad news and rubbish things going on in the world at the moment (dare we mention Brexit?!). It’s going to be a really fun, carefree night of great music with friends: perfect for a rainy February evening!

"a really fun, carefree night of great music with friends"

What do you love about jazz and swing?

I love jazz and swing for many different reasons. I love the danger of improvisation, the musical flexibility and the opportunity to bounce ideas off other performances and the audience. It’s new and exciting every night, and never, ever boring. There’s something so exhilarating about the passion of jazz artists that makes them the most entertaining musicians and gives us the most wonderful music to play. I’m ecstatic to be bringing top-draw artists such as Liane to Wiltshire Music Centre, and to show off my wonderful friend and her incredible talents! We’ll see you tomorrow for what I know will be a fantastic night (well I would say that, wouldn’t I!) of swing with friends!

WED 14 FEB, 7.30PM

£20 / £10 U18s + students

Book now: https://www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk/whats-on/claire-martin-obe-liane-carroll

Thanks to Claire Martin OBE, Nimmo Artist in Residence