The BBC Big Band are joined by multi award-winning vocalist and radio presenter Claire Martin to celebrate the Big Band Divas at Chichester Festival Theatre on January 23 at 7.30pm.
Under conductor Barry Forgie, Claire and the band will explore the works of the leading ladies of the big band era including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee and their contemporaries.
As Claire says: “I am doffing my cap!”
You can enjoy the classic songs that made them stars, including That Old Black Magic, I’ve Got The World on a String and Too Darn Hot plus plenty of big band hits from the groups the divas loved to work with including Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman.
“I will be trying to put my own spin on them,” Claire says.
“But they are certainly in my brain somewhere.
“There are about ten divas that I will talk about, from Judy Garland to Billie Holiday, and then I will sing a song that is closely related to each of them and which ties in nicely.
“It is a good chance to talk about the women that have really inspired me, all of them.”
Claire hesitates to pick out a favourite. They all matter to her.
“But maybe first place would be Ella Fitzgerald. It was the first version of jazz singing that I heard.
“My mother loved Ella Fitzgerald. I grew up surrounded by the music of Ella Fitzgerald.
“All the singers mean something to me, but Ella Fitzgerald was the ultimate musician.
“It was her voice, her phrasing, her style, her complete musicianship. And she was just such an intelligent singer. She was just joyous. Everything about her was just flawless.
“They all had different personalities, different ways, different phrasing. And they have all got different stories to tell, different choices of music.
“Shirley Horn was maybe the last diva that I was really infatuated with.
“She would sing the Great American Songbook, but she would also do more contemporary stuff. She was a pianist singer from Washington, DC who was Miles Davis’ favourite singer.
“When he came to play in New York, he would ask for her be the support act.
“She was an effortless singer and a fantastic pianist.
“She was the epitome of cool really. It was just such beautiful singing and such wonderful delivery.”
Judy Garland, though not a jazz singer, was another favourite: “She was just up there for her sound and for what she gave to the arts. She died younger than I am now…. and it is just impossible to imagine all that she left behind, that great musical legacy.”
The show has been around for a couple of years.
“But we only do it six times a year or so. We have done it all over the country, but it is not really touring.
“To tour a big band, you would need a really big bank account!”
Tickets are available from Chichester Festival Theatre.