The noisy crowd fell silent as she took the stage to open with an unusual choice for a jazz club, My love is like a red, red rose, to muted accompaniment on drums, bass guitar, guitar and violin. Her voice was crystal clear, sweet but powerful, her interpretation loose and moving. These simpler, folksy tunes were the ones that allowed this luminous voice full expression and betrayed the dram of Irish blood she confessed to having.
But there was a lot more to come. We heard her sing a wide range of music, including classics, original compositions and arrangements. Her voice has a surprising versatility – slightly more relaxed in her own compositions and more strident and throaty in the gospel songs and standards Dancing Cheek to Cheek and Fever. On some of her original songs, which were poignant, subtle and emotional, she played piano or harp, which hardly detracted from her vocal performance. She closed the first set with her favourite composition Blurred, which made sure no-one left the building!
In the second set she invited drummer Adrian Violi and violinist Michael McClintock to sing harmonies alongside back-up girls Marielle and Fiona for an a capella ballad. Divine. It was evident the band had the utmost respect for this dynamic young woman and even seemed to be in awe of her at times. Like Clare, all the musicians are young and highly accomplished. They are only now recording their first album at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne.
In the intimate confines of Bennetts Lane, the band had to hold back. The drums, bass and guitar worked together well as a sensitive rhythm section, with Dung Nguyen on Gibson guitar breaking into some great licks and solos on the standards such as Hit the road Jack. In the original songs, Dublin-born McClintock, on electric violin, worked with the vocal lines, picking up notes and flying off with them into the ether. I would love to see this band on a big stage, where they could extend themselves dynamically and emotionally.
Clare had a good rapport with the audience. She talked easily and openly and without pretension between songs, giving us some insight into the provenance of her original work and showing the vulnerability behind this exceptional talent. She only recently started playing her own compositions after her training as a jazz and classical singer and performing for years in Melbourne. She toured Australia & the Edinburgh Festival last year with Songbird – A Tribute to Eva Cassidy – and will tour this show again from March, to Launceston, Hobart, Canberra, Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane and other venues.
Hayley Clare Quintet
Venue: Bennetts Lane Jazz Club
Dates & Performance Times: 25 January 2007 @ 9.30pm
Bookings: www.bennettslane.com or 9017 1125