In the category of better late than never comes Living Room, the debut album of California-based jazz vocalist Audrey Martin. Daughter of a reed player, Martin was early introduced to the wonders of jazz and the joys of performance, but as is often the case, adulthood brought competing interests. In college, she studied psychology and earned a Master’s degree. She got licensed to practice marital and family therapy and began the successful pursuit of a professional career.
But singing must have been an itch, and itches need to be scratched.
“When I turned 40 I decided I had to do something,” Martin recalls. “It had been eating away at me. I always loved music, but I had gone on a different track. I loved my work but something was missing.” She began studying at the Jazzschool, then doing some concertizing, and now a dozen years later after a successful Kickstarter campaign, she makes her album debut.
Choosing an eclectic 14-song program that begins with the Abbey Lincoln/Max Roach tune that gives the album its title and ends with Laura Nyro’s “Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp,” she uses her singing, as she says “to communicate the emotion of a lyric sensitively and in a deeply felt way, to find my way into the world of a song so that I am speaking to the listener.” Her interpretations are both mature and emotionally honest. Her vocals are never flashy. Whether she is doing a standard like “April In Paris” or a contemporary piece like Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” this is a singer who sings in service of the lyric, never trying to upstage it.
And although I’m not sure the world needs another version of “My Favorite Things,” (not that there’s anything wrong with Martin’s take, the song is just not one of my favorite things), her work throughout is impressive. “Wild is the Wind” and “Meaning of the Blues” have her handling classic material with intelligence. But it is with the more contemporary material that she is her most effective. Nyro’s “I Never Meant to Hurt You” and “Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp” are exquisite in the delicacy of her vocals. Her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” is absolutely exquisite. Indeed, for me it is the highlight of an album with a lot of highlights.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00138I5ZK]