Clare Teal at Cadogan Hall
Despite holding the title of having the biggest recording contract for a British jazz singer, Clare Teal is as down-to-earth as they come. She strolls onto the stage with a big smile and a wave, from then on it feels almost like being at home with her having a cup of tea and a chat.
She starts off with Messin’ with Fire: a great swinger that gives the big band a chance to get into their stride. Teal starts her impression of a jazz singer but, from the very first song, reads almost every word from the score on the music stand. She looks awkward and immobile and can barely make eye contact with the audience but for a split second at any time.
For I Just Want to Make Love to You she attempts to throw some soul into the mix, but it feels rather lightweight. She reels through Black Magic and Cole Porter’s Too Darn Hot: they’re passable, but more Butlins than Ronnie Scott’s.
Teal simply doesn’t have the deftness to bring these faster songs to life: there’s very little variation in her tone or emphasis and the words blur together. When she tries to bring colour in the shape of Ella Fitzgerald style ornamentation, it merely adds a sense of clutter to her delivery.
The songs she does best are the non-jazz numbers such as Annie Lennox’s Why, which she performs in a sweet country style with tasteful harmony from the band’s double bass player and pianist/musical director Grant Windsor.
Billy Joel’s And So It Goes is another song that shows off this other side of Teal’s repertoire. It’s performed simply with Windsor’s piano accompaniment: the slower pace and lower register allows us to really appreciate the warmth and richness of her voice.
Between songs, Teal delivers some chat and banter, helping everybody feel at home. She’s humble and self-deprecating, making clear her Yorkshire beginnings and that she’s not really a diva. The audience appreciate her jokes. However, her relaxed non-show-business attitude goes too far when she gets her timing wrong in Let Me Off Up Town and they have to start the piece again.
It’s all cosy enough and might even be called nostalgic, but it too often goes the way of unprofessional and clumsy: fine for indie rock maybe, but not for the self styled “Queen of Swing”.
Photos: Alberto Martinez Bracero
For further information about Clare Teal and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Why here: