On entering Shirely Hall at the Kings School Canterbury for Claire Martin and Joe Stilgoe's 'The Two of Us', the hall gave of a quite a grandiose atmosphere, perhaps not your archetypal venue for a jazz gig. This initial lack of intimacy however proved no match Stilgoe and Martin's infectious charm and charisma, who created an evening filled with expert musicianship, engaging and delightful anecdotes and a voice so alluring and layered, it comes as no surprise that it has been named Best Vocalist at the British Jazz Awards an astonishing six times.
Stilgoe's expertise was also unmistakable, his dexterous fingers flying across the keys, giving the impression we were in good hands. His ability to improvise and the quality of his solos was only matched by her voice, the two perfectly complimenting one another, demonstrated beautifully on 'Watch What Happens'. Indeed the two were a perfect pairing, whose chemistry gave off a feeling of fun and laughter that proved infectious for the audience, who lapped up Joe's dry humour and boyish charm, as he improvised lyrics to a number of his pieces.
The choice of songs was inspired. The choosing of lesser known gems from the Great American songbook, such as a fantastic rendition of 'Love Is Here To Stay' which Martins said she'd heard first from Ella Fitzgerald, as well as a beautifully touching performance of 'Early to Bed'. The real magic however came from the smattering of tracks written by Stilgoe and Martin. Martin's 'Witchcraft', recorded with her late friend Sir Richard Rodney Bennet proving a lovely end to the first set; 'perfect for Halloween' as Martins put it. It was Stilgoe's 'We Should Kiss' however, which proved to be the highlight of the evening. Its feeling of joy and fervour was only matched by the sincerity of his passion for the music, creating an atmosphere not out of place in 1920's New York. This was beautifully followed by a rendition of another classic, "Who Said Gay Paree?" by Cole Porter, its sadness and melancholy beautifully juxtaposing against the previous piece.
The two's versatility and eclectic mix of pieces, brought to life by her deeply bewitching voice and his extraordinary ability on the piano, created an intimate affectionate ambience, despite the initial coldness of the hall. Their choice of classics as well as their own mix of original works, inspiring an atmosphere reminiscent of that of the Jazz Age.