Audrey Martin Living Room
For some jazz singers, a song is a point of departure, a launching pad for extended improvisational flights with a band of fellow explorers. For Audrey Martin, songs are revelatory texts ripe for interpretation. Not every song, mind you. In building her repertoire, the Bay Area singer has gathered a treasure trove of material that resonates with her on a bone-deep level. Living Room, her consistently inspired ballad-centric debut album, finds Martin delving deeply into a highly personal array of material with a particular focus on groundbreaking women artists like Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln, and Blossom Dearie.
The first thing that stands out about Martin is her warm, luxuriant sound and supple phrasing. But what sets her apart is the probing emotional intelligence that she brings to the lyrics. It’s rare indeed for a jazz artist to arrive on the scene as such a mature and fully realized artist. In Martin’s case, it’s because she’s taken a long, indirect path to finding her voice.
While still practicing as a psychotherapist, she plunged back into her early love of singing in the late 1990s, studying at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. The key to her exponential growth as a performer was finding pianist Larry Dunlap, a master accompanist who provides lustrous support as a player and arranger. He connected her with the superlative rhythm section tandem of bassist John Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis, who both share Martin’s less-is-more aesthetic. A work of remarkable but unforced intimacy, Living Room introduces a singer who makes you hear familiar songs anew.
Andrew Gilbert writes for The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and other publications.