Thrice voted British Jazz Singer of the year, Clare Teal has a remarkable 14 albums to her name. ‘Twelve O’Clock Tales’, her fifteenth, is clearly her most ambitious. For this long player she’s to be found working alongside Manchester’s magnificent Hallé Orchestra who play in tandem with what we might call a traditional a big jazz band. Yes, certainly ambitious and also mightily accomplished… the fourteen tracker shows huge maturity and a confidence grown from experience.
The album’s title is taken from a line in the Billy Strayhorn song ‘Lush Life’ which is one of the project’s anchors. And that song offers a clue to LP’s content… yes, most of the songs are taken from the Great American Songbook (a few British ones too, of course) though, for variety we’re also offered some Teal originals, like a re-recording of ‘Paradisi Carousel’ – the title song from her 2007 album. Old or new, cover or original, what the selections all have in common is that they lend themselves perfectly to the highly orchestrated arrangements which come courtesy of trumpeter Guy Barker and pianist Jason Rebello.
Amongst the many highlights is a six and a half minute version of the ‘Calamity Jane’ song, ‘Secret Love’. The original was of course by Doris Day – a singer who Ms Teal regards as one of her heroines – but here the whole thing is re-imagined. The lush orchestral introduction runs for almost two and a half minutes while the refrain is prefaced by the often neglected prologue. The same big production embraces Clare’s version of Johnny Mathis’s ‘Wild Is The Wind’, Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ and the evergreen ‘The Folks Who Live On The Hill’. All things of real beauty.
A cover of Peggy Lee’s ‘Sans Soucci’ injects a little quirkiness into proceedings but whether whimsical, reflective, sombre, romantic, joyous or forlorn Ms Teal’s remarkable voice provides the unity. Perchance a fourth British Jazz Singer accolade beckons.