Carroll and Martin in Perfect Harmony at The Pheasantry



Bold reworkings of cherished classics, daring flights of freewheeling improv, singing that melted the heart underpinned by gloriously rich piano voicings, plus a sold-out audience that was receptive to every note. Whether dipping into their respective back catalogues, paying tribute to musical heroes, or dusting down favourite show tunes, Liane Carroll and Claire Martin's blues, jazz and soul revue coaxed the audience into a state of joy thanks to the warmth of their music-making, their easy rapport and, not least, their outstanding musicianship.

Presented as a single continuous set, the evening commenced with a mash-up of two standards, one of the greatest 'list' songs, Cole Porter's 'It's All Right With Me', which featured bracing gear changes aplenty, plus a deeply swinging 'I Thought About You' from the pens of Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer. Recorded by Della Reese, Peggy Lee, Anita O'Day and more, Martin's performance of 'You Came A Long Way (from St Louis)' – which she herself recorded on her 2016 album We've Got a World That Swings – was one of especial eloquence and narrative drive. Sticking with the St Louis theme, Carroll then presented a barnstorming tribute to Bessie Smith, 'St Louis Blues', in which the timbral richness of her voice was perfectly matched by her pleasingly fulsome pianism.

The duo's poignant Aretha tribute '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', penned specifically for the singer over 50 years ago by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, lit up the venue with its intense communicative power, while Martin's utterly gorgeous take on 'Too Late Now', the closing song on her 2012 album Too Much in Love to Care, was marked by a tender lyricism and depth of feeling.
Performed as a duet, the Arlen/Mercer classic 'That Old Black Magic' (the lead-off song on Carroll's 2005 album Standard Issue) was another tour de force, followed by Martin's similarly blistering version of Wes Montgomery's trailblazing 'West Coast Blues', learnt from the singing of the great Nancy Wilson.

"She's just got to put a little bit more heart and soul into it", Martin joked after Carroll completely floored everyone with a stunning interpretation of 'Ol' Man River' (from Show Boat). The first of a brace of show tunes, Martin then delivered a luxuriant, pitch perfect 'People Will Say We're In Love' (from Oklahoma!), with its affectionate nod to Ella Fitzgerald and Ellis Larkins at the end. There was also a rollicking, aphrodisiacal 'Love Potion No.9', complete with shaky egg solo by Martin, another standards mash-up of 'Time After Time' and 'I Didn't Know What Time It Was', a final nod to St Louis with a sparkling 'Come Rain Or Come Shine' (from Arlen and Mercer's 1940s musical St. Louis Woman), and the duo's perfect harmonies in an adrenalised account of 'I Got Rhythm'.

The Bacharach/David classic 'I Say A Little Prayer' provided a final salute to the Queen of Soul and brought this intimate night of song to a moving close. There really can't be many more delightful ways of spending an hour and a half than in the company of these two award-winning artists.

– Peter Quinn