Claudia Morris - Twelve O’Clock Tales (Album Review)
Jazz returnee, Claudia Morris, succeeds at filling a void in the classier end of the scene


Jazz is a guilty pleasure to an increasing number of younger people these days, which is far removed from its former smoky nightclub atmosphere, in back rooms packed with eyes-closed, balding, off-beat knee-tappers. Despite looking like a classier raven-haired alternative to Eastenders' ‘Kat Moon’, the shapely Claudia Morris possesses a delightfully sweet voice that rests happily with a strident popular jazz background sound.


With an array of well-known jazz classics at her disposal, the self-arranged dozen tracks of Twelve O’Clock News present an effervescent, surprisingly cheerful and eminently enjoyable musical collection. Of course, it would be exceptionally indelicate to ask a lady’s age but, as Claudia admits in her sleeve-notes, this album represents a return to recording, after a break of no less than eighteen years, during which she reared her three children. Listen to this album through and you would be hard-pressed to tell that she was ever away from the scene, so unerringly slick are its production values and the potency of the inpidual songs.


From the opening gambit of ‘Taking A Chance On Love’, the Fetter/Lattouche perennial, to the closing track of ‘Frim Fram Sauce’ (Ricardel/Evans), the album oozes emotional quality and performer style by the bucket-load. I particularly enjoyed the Bacharach classic ‘The Look Of Love’, to which Claudia has gifted a lighter and more uplifting rendition.


‘Making Whoopee’ (Donaldson/Kahn), ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ (Carole King) and ‘Close Your Eyes’ (Bernice Petkere), are all provided with a charming jazz/swing treatment. Simon Colam provides some of the arrangements, along with his consummate piano-playing skills, which are never allowed to intrude on Claudia’s lovely vocalisation. The rest of the band consists of some of the best jazz musicians in the UK, including John Blease on drums and percussion, Jules Jackson on bass, Alex Garnett on saxophone and Al Cherry on guitar.


Claudia gives the well-known Leslie Bricusse ‘When I Look In Your Eyes’ cover a dreamy and wistful treatment. Yet her passionate support, at the other end of the scale, of the precocious talents of Billy Strayhorn, who wrote ‘Lush Life’ at the age of just 16 years (the lyrics of which track provided the title for this return album), demonstrate a sensitivity that would lend itself ideally to the West End stage.


If this is a return album for the vocal talents of Ms Morris (whose own natural slant on ‘scat’ stands comparison with the incredible skills of Ella Fitzgerald), then I urge her management team to get its spurs on and exercise her talents in other fields. Her voice is beguiling and charming and it would sound great in any number of musical stage roles. Twelve O’Clock Tales is an easy listening album that will bring as much joy to jazz classicists, as it will the younger set, which is equally beguiled by the likes of jazz-exponent Michael Buble and Robbie Williams’ much-lauded waft into the swing scene.