The Concorde Club at Eastleigh, (perhaps the best U.K. provincial jazz club in terms of facilities and ambience) had the first of a new series of "Jazz Diva" evenings.The Club, which promotes various types of jazz on different evenings each week decided that 'the jazz diva genre' is becoming so popular that a dedicated night could be tried.
The opening event, last evening, had Clare Teal, with her usual accompanying quintet. It attracted a full house (about 250).It was her first visit to the venue and for most of those present their first experience of Clare Teal except perhaps for occasional radio exposure. As such, it was an interesting parallel to Jamie Cullum who similarly appeared at the Concorde a few weeks ago.Both are, of course, young U.K. artists singing Great American Songbook music and some of their own material and both have received exceptional 'hype'.
Cullum - nicknamed 'the jazz wunderkind' is marketed as something close to a pop star (and has a song on his latest album proclaiming 'I don't wanna be a pop star'). He is like some others mentioned here recently,in the 'early Harry Connick' bag, if you need a label.The Concorde audience, I thought, liked his jazzy piano playing and his choice of material, were a bit dubious about his walking round the piano banging it from time to time ( a rhythmical eccentricity) and could not fail to be charmed by his 'Jack the lad' personality. He also attracted an audience that had perhaps 30% of its members under the age of 45(unusual for Concorde jazz audiences). I think I reported here that he sold a large number of CDs (perhaps 80, I would guess). The older members of the audience, I thought, seemed uncertain how they felt about his own songs and some thought he took too many liberties with the G.A.S. (wrong words, lack of attention to phrasing), but he was generally well received.
Clare Teal attracted a larger audience (standing room only) but they were the older crowd, with few under 45. For my taste she performed extremely well, with a very good jazz feel and applying her own interpretation, being neither an imitator nor a destroyer of the material. Her publicity links her to "Little Voice" in that she learned the songs from her parents' record collection and that seems a good analogy. She sings them enthusiastically, relishing Cole Porter's lyrics and Lorenz Hart's witticisms and bemoaning that she knew too little about some songs information is on its way to her e-mail address!). Her own songs are fun, well written and obviously enjoyed by her excellent accompanying group(Veteran pianist Martin Litton is the leader and writes the arrangements). Her rapport with the audience and her friendly banter made them feel comfortable - a bit like 'the girl next door who sings'. At the end of the evening it was a standing ovation (unusual in the U.K.), several encores and a lot of happy chatter as they filed out. Throughout the hour long interval she was coping with signing CDs - my guess would be over a hundred sold - interesting when they cost here over $20 - twice the cost of entry for the evening. Many buyers bought both her CDs ($37) - and got a free Jazz Rag magazine with a Clare Teal cover and feature article.Apart from the sheer entertainment value the crowd and their acceptance of this new artist made it very interesting. I am sure for promoter Cole Mathieson, it must rate as a big success.
It will be interesting to see how the future of 'Jazz Diva Evening' develops. Incidentally elsewhere in the same building the Concorde has a wine-bar with music, which, as every Tuesday, had a local lady jazz singer with a trio for no minimum. That had, when I looked in the interval, an almost full house also.Stacey Kent is here next week - on the jazz night and not in the 'diva'series - there is likely again to be a full house.