There is, it would appear, no truth in the rumour that Clare Teal is on the verge of changing her name to Topsy but what remains beyond dispute is that her accompaniment keeps getting bigger and bigger. The outfit she has just taken on the road and which she brought to Cadogan Hall, London on Friday, February 14, weighed in at nine pieces – and that was without the guest artists that turned up after intermission. They were divided neatly into three brass, three reeds and three rhythm but the charts, largely the work of trumpeter Guy Barker, who is now conducting the ensemble, contrive to make the band seem twice that number.
Clare’s mission – which she has clearly chosen to accept – is to bring quality songwriting to the nation so that, for example, the programme of just over 20 songs includes three by Cole Porter, from 1929, 1936, and 1950, though the frenetic pace bleaches all the original meaning out of “What Is This Thing Called Love”, “Just One of Those Things” and “From This Moment On”. Given my predilection for ballads I began to relax when the third title in the first set turned out to be Charles Trenet’s “Que Reste-a-t-il De Nos Amours”, performed in one of the better known English translations “I Wish You Love” and including the verse, one of only five featured all evening.
Ms Teal has, of course, been at this game for several years and knows just how to please a crowd to the extent that they will sit still for something out of left field like Doris Fisher’s big hit from 1944 “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” on which Ella Fitzgerald duetted with The Ink Spots, especially Bill Kenny. Roberts was one of a handful of female songwriters who turned out several hits in the 1940s – “Tampico”, “Put the Blame on Mame”, ”You Always Hurt the One You Love” – often with Allan Roberts. Daughter of Fred Fisher (“Chicago”) she was also sister to Marvin and Dan, making her part of a unique songwriting dynasty, and Clare manages to include one of Marvin’s (“When Sunny Gets Blue”, “I Keep Going Back to Joe’s”) lesser-known titles “Something Happens to Me”.
The band is cooking behind Clare from minute one, taking their lead from Jason Rebello’s piano, and all are completely at ease trading banter with Clare; the fact that it is obviously well rehearsed does nothing to negate its contribution to the evening.
Other numbers on offer include “On a Wonderful Day Like Today”, “Singin’ in the Rain”, Duke Ellington’s “I Like the Sunrise”, “Perfidia”, “Cry Me a River” and “Mr. Paganini” – just enough off-kilter to be intriguing. There’s no reason to suppose this won’t be yet another successful tour – catch it if it plays near you.