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Albums of the Year 2023: Scott Dunn with Claire Martin and the RPO - I Watch You Sleep | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2023: Scott Dunn with Claire Martin and the RPO - I Watch You Sleep

Albums of the Year 2023: Scott Dunn with Claire Martin and the RPO - I Watch You Sleep

This tribute to the late, great Richard Rodney Bennett is a thing of exquisite beauty

Celebrating Bennett's brilliance: I Watch You Sleep

A flawless song list comprising Richard Rodney Bennett originals plus some of his favourite standards, stunning arrangements by conductor Scott Dunn, plus the mellifluous vocals of Claire Martin magically aligned in my Album of the Year, I Watch You Sleep, an extraordinarily beautiful tribute to Bennett marking the tenth anniversary of his death.

It was one of several outstanding vocal jazz releases this year. Returning Weather, a new song cycle from the Dublin-born vocalist and composer, Christine Tobin, presented a fascinating exploration of cultural reconnection. The album’s striking sound-world – voice, uilleann pipes, piano, viola, guitar and electronics – drew in elements from traditional Irish music, jazz and contemporary classical music in an entirely seamless way.

Along with five sparkling originals, Cécile McLorin Salvant's Mélusine offered the most eclectic array of covers we’ve yet heard from the three-time Grammy Award winner. From the remarkable air de cour, “D’un feu secret”, penned by the seventeenth century French composer, Michel Lambert, to a brilliant version of Charles Trenet’s “La route enchantée”, Salvant continues to confound and delight at every turn.

Fresh from bagging a Grammy last year for Mirror Mirror, her dazzling 2021 album of piano duets with the late Chick Corea and Chucho Valdés, the exquisite Quietude saw Eliane Elias partnering with a trio of exceptional guitarists – Marcus Teixeira, Lula Galvão and Oscar Castro-Neves – with a song list that included gems from Dorival Caymmi, Jobim, and more.

Imogen Ryall’s Sings the Charles Mingus/Joni Mitchell Songbook was an outstanding paean to an unexpected collaboration which resulted in one of the most singular albums in Mitchell’s oeuvre, Mingus, released in June 1979 just five months after Mingus’s untimely death.

With fabulous playing from the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, sumptuous arrangements and – at its heart – the wonderfully singing quality of Nils Petter Molvær’s trumpet playing, the imaginative reworkings of Certainty of Tides presented an arresting symphonic journey through the heart of Molvær's musical world.

Three More Essential Albums of 2023

Christine Tobin Returning Weather

Cécile McLorin Salvant Mélusine

Eliane Elias Quietude

Musical Experiences of the Year

Highlights this year included the stunning fiddle playing of Sorcha Costello at the launch of her debut album, The Primrose Lass, as part of the 36th International Feakle Festival of Traditional Irish Music, plus the remarkable programme which composer, arranger, conductor, bandleader, pianist and educator, Nikki Iles, crafted for the great Hamburg-based jazz orchestra, the NDR Bigband, at her EFG London Jazz Festival gig in Cadogan Hall.

Track of the Year

Scott Dunn with Claire Martin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra “I Watch You Sleep”

Listen to “I Watch You Sleep” performed by Scott Dunn with Claire Martin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 

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