The Assembly Hall in Islington is a venue that I had not attended before, tonight, the legendary UK soul star MICA PARIS would be performing the hits of Ella Fitzgerald to a capacity audience.
Despite a late start, which had members of the audience yelling “about time!” as the jazz quartet (led by Peter Edwards on piano) finally took to the stage, Mica Paris didn’t disappoint. She belted out in her inimitable soul style a range of Ella classics from “Love For Sale” and “Too Darn Hot” to lesser known covers like The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love”.
At no point in the night did Paris attempt an Ella impersonation. She made each song her own, using her trademark R’n’B riffs and even some funk-fuelled grunting to bring these songs right up to date. This worked particularly well on the more familiar tunes as it gave them an exciting, fresh flavour, infusing them with techniques that wouldn’t have been available to Ella at the height of her powers.
The real highlight of the night though was the less familiar repertoire. “You’re My Thrill” was a soaring emotional ballad, “Night In Tunisia” a fiercely syncopated tribute to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and “No Invitation To The Dance” had everyone in the audience stomping and jiving like teenagers.
The danger of consciously singing the Ella Fitzgerald songbook is that you invite obvious comparison, and on signature songs like “Summertime” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”, Mica all too clearly lost the battle. Her scat singing needs more variety and invention, while her lack of familiarity with some of the songs (she relied on lyric sheets) created a barrier to spontaneity.
This was the first of five performances as she tours this event across the UK, so future audiences will no doubt benefit from her growing familiarity with the material. Nonetheless her easy rapport with the audience and powerhouse voice made it a memorable night for jazz and soul fans alike.
Words by Alex Williams
Pictures by Steve Muscutt (to see all the pics from the show, click HERE)
Too Darn Hot
Love For Sale
You Can't Take That Away From Me
Can’t Buy Me Love
You're My Thrill
Hallelujah I Just love Him So
Night In Tunisia
Everytime We Say Goodbye
I've Got It bad And That Ain't Good
No Invitation to the Dance