Saturday 22 October 2016

My cultural life... with singer Clare Teal

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Singer Clare Teal
Singer Clare Teal
Lady Sings The Blues
Grace & Frankie

Clare Teal, pictured, is one of the UK's most celebrated and much loved singers. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz, swing and big band music, and won British Jazz Singer of the Year in 2005, 2007 and 2015, and BBC Jazz Singer of the Year in 2006. She was awarded a coveted Gold Badge by BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) in 2011 and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music by the University of Wolverhampton in 2015. She lives in Glastonbury with her partner Mud and Alan the dog. She'll perform First Ladies of Swing - Ella, Peggy, Doris & Beyond on Friday August 12 at the National Concert Hall.

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Lyrics: Lush Life by Billie Strayhorn

The songs I sing were written by some of the greatest writers to ever walk the planet, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn the list goes on. But the work of Duke Ellington's right-hand man Billy Strayhorn, pictured right with Ellington, was second to none, though he never seems to get the recognition he deserves. Lush Life is a song Billy wrote mainly aged just 16, the lyric eloquently paints a vivid picture of hard living, drinking and failed romances. "The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces, with distingué traces, that used to be there you could see where, they'd been washed away, by too many through the day, twelve o'clock tales."

Book: Lady Sings the Blues

I have always tried to immerse myself in the jazz world of the 1930s and 1940s as fully as possible. I remember vividly the day I bought this book, Lady Sings The Blues, an autobiography by Billie Holiday. I was so delighted to have found a copy, I opened the first page to read "Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married; he was 18, she was 16, and I was three." Co-writer William Duffy later said they couldn't print half of what actually went on and the other half was watered down.

TV: Grace & Frankie

Another chance encounter flicking through Netflix. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin reunite some 35 years after starring along with Dolly Parton in 9 to 5. At 78 and 76 respectively, it's fantastic to see these great actresses shine in a sitcom worthy of their talent. A good chunk of my audience are in their later years, loving life, still active and still relevant. Based on what I have seen, I'd say 90 is the new 70.

Film: Adult Life Skills

Directed by Rachel Tunnard and starring Jodie Whittaker. What a gem! A bedraggled northern, almost 30-year old-woman, living in her mother's shed making films starring her own two thumbs, struggling to move on with her life - what's not to like. Great story and great cast.

Album: Sawdust &Spangles

By The Cloggz. I present my own Radio 2 show every Sunday night playing big band and swing music. My friend Heather introduced me to this album, and I can't stop playing it. Written mainly and arranged by a talented collective of musicians, their music is romantic, melodic, cinematic, and very beautiful, the world wide melting pot of inspirations tumble together, generating a heady and delicious blend of flavours - great song writing too. A Rain of Stars is a stand-out song.

Sunday Independent

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