Martin was born in Wimbledon, London. She grew up in a house “full of music” thanks to jazz loving parents. She cites Ella Fitzgerald´s Song Books as being a major influence which inspired her to major at singing at the Doris Holford Stage School and later to study singing in both New York and London. Her professional career started with her first engagement aged 19 which was singer in a hotel band in Bournemouth. After this she worked aboard the QE2, where she sang in the piano bar for two years.
At the age of 21, Martin formed her own jazz quartet. In 1991, she was signed by the Scottish jazz label Linn Records, and her debut album, The Waiting Game, was released in 1992. The album was well reviewed and was selected by The Times as one of their “Albums of the Year”. Later that year, she opened for Tony Bennett at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival.
Martin has since released 17 CDs with the label, collaborating with musical luminaries including Martin Taylor, John Martyn, Stephane Grappelli, Kenny Barron, Richard Rodney Bennett, Jim Mullen and Nigel Hitchcock on many of these recordings.
Martin has performed all over Europe and Asia with her trio and, until his death in 2012, with Richard Rodney Bennett in an intimate cabaret duo setting both in England and in America where they played to sell out crowds at venues including the prestigious Algonquin Hotel in New York City. Martin has also been a featured soloist with the Halle Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the RTE Concert Orchestra, the BBC Big Band and the BBC Concert Orchestra. She has co-presented BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line Up since 2000 and has interviewed many of her musical heroes such as Pat Metheny, the late Michael Brecker, Brad Mehldau and Andre Previn. Her 2009 CD A Modern Art prompted Jazz Times USA to claim: “She ranks among the four or five finest female jazz vocalists on the planet”.
Martin won both the 2009 and 2010 ‘Best Vocalist’ category at the British Jazz Awards and toured extensively throughout the UK, Scandinavia, Russia and China, appearing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and her world-class trio. 2011 was a significant year for Martin as she made her debut at the Lincoln Center in New York with pianist Bill Charlap and went on to perform for the third time at the famous Algonquin Hotel for a three week residency with Rodney Bennett. Their album Witchcraft gained much critical acclaim and was “unequivocally recommended” by Jazzwise magazine.
In August 2011 Martin recorded with legendary jazz pianist Kenny Barron and an all-star American lineup for her fifteenth album for Linn records. Too Much in Love to Care received 5 star reviews and prompted Jazz Journal to state that she is “one of the finest jazz singers in the world today”. The album went on to win the ‘Best New Recording’ award at the 2012 British Jazz Awards. 2013 was spent touring the new material in the UK and Europe and embarking on a new show The Two of Us with conductor John Wilson, Joe Stilgoe, Mark McGann and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, celebrating the music of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
Martin has recently embarked on a series of collaborations with The Montpellier Cello Quartet. The arrangements were especially written for her by Rodney Bennett, Mark Anthony Turnage and Django Bates, and this new chamber jazz ensemble toured throughout 2014 to promote a new album on Linn Records called ‘Time and Place’ which features singer/pianist Joe Stilgoe who became Martin’s new cabaret partner. A highlight for this duo with Joe was a sell out performance at the Wigmore Hall in December where they celebrated the songs of Paris.