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Mica Paris takes on an exciting new live show for 2018

PASSIONATE: Mica Paris plans to take her rendition of Ella Fitzgerald further after her February tour (Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA)

HAVING BEEN inspired by Ella Fitzgerald since she was a young girl, Mica Paris says she is determined to shine a light on one of Jazz’s ‘unsung’ heroes.

Singer Paris released two tracks with legendary trumpeter, jazz producer and arranger Guy Barker to celebrate the centenary of Fitzgerald’s birth earlier this year and will embark on a five-date tour performing songs by the legendary artist early in 2018.

Talking about the first time she came across Fitzgerald, Paris, 48, said it was a television advert that made her sit up and take note. “My very first memory of Ella Fitzgerald was when she had this advert on TV,” Paris recalled.

She added: “I was so young then – I must have been about seven or eight – but I remember it coming on because she broke the glass and I was like, ‘Wow, how did she do that?’ And back then, there weren’t many black people on TV so it was just like, ‘There’s a black woman, she’s got an amazing voice, and she broke a glass’.

“The advert was for Memorex which used to be a cassettes company.”

Fitzgerald is one of the most revered jazz singers of the 20th century, an American jazz pioneer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, and a ‘horn- like’ improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.

Paris says she feels despite all of her musical contributions, Fitzgerald’s legacy isn’t revered in a satisfactory way. She urged: “Everything’s special about Ella Fitzgerald as an artist. She is an unsung hero, really.

“She’s the music behind everything. You’ve heard her music and voice your whole life, but you don’t realise it’s her – this is what’s interesting.”

She added: “So many adverts use her songs, and what’s unique about Ella is the way she sang. She had a very universal sound. Her voice wasn’t necessarily what you would call a ‘black voice’, but she could turn it on if she wanted to.

"But she had this kind of sound very similar to how Nat King Cole had the sound that wasn’t necessarily termed as a black voice. It transcended colour. That’s why she was so unique and then she would be able to interpret all different types of music.”

STAR: Ella Fitzgerald (Photography by William P. Gottlieb)

Paris is, however, a successful artist herself, with a string of top 40 singles under her belt. Her albums and singles include ‘Black Angel’, ‘Stay and Carefree’, together with collaborations with David Gilmour, Prince and Jools Holland, before turning her many talents to London’s West End stage starring in ‘Mama, I Want to Sing!’, ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and ‘Sweet Lorraine’.

Next year promises to be another full one for Paris. Looking ahead to the February shows, she said: “In March this year, I decided to go in the studio with the Guy Barker orchestra.

“Guy Barker is an old friend of mine. He’s amazing and he has this fantastic orchestra, and I thought, ‘Let’s go in and record these two tracks of Ella, and see what the reaction is’.

“And I mean, who told me to do that? It went mental. Everyone’s just gone crazy, so we did Cheltenham Jazz Festival, we did ‘Love Supreme’."

“In my tent, I had 7,500 people just there – just to watch me sing Ella Fitzgerald with a quartet. It wasn’t even a full band, and it’s just been building up to this amazing crescendo.

“2017 has just been brilliant with regards to Mica singing Ella Fitzgerald – it’s been amazing. So we decided to carry on.”

She added: “Now we’re going to do a proper tour instead of spot dates in 2018 because the album comes out in 2018, Mica sings Ella and we decided we’re going to do a mini tour in February – from February 11-16 – around the country and I can’t even put how I feel into words.

“I didn’t really expect to get the demographic that we’re getting, which is a mixture of young, middle-aged and older fans that are coming to the shows and literally losing it.

“It’s just amazing, and I think what’s made it so successful is that we’ve made it contemporary. I’m not trying to copy Ella Fitzgerald. What I’m doing is interpreting Ella in my way because it would be useless, pointless to just copy, you have to interpret in your way.

“So this is why it doesn’t sound exactly like Ella, but it is Ella – Mica’s version of Ella.”

For fans of both Paris and Fitzgerald who can’t get enough, there could be even more next year than they bargained for. Paris admitted: “In 2018 the other projects I have going on are a show, a theatrical show about Ella’s life which would be really interesting.

“It’s going really well and it will be coming out in 2018 – that’s all I can tell you, and I’ll be playing Ella Fitzgerald, as well.” But does she have anything else in the pipeline?

“And then the other project is the album ‘Mica sings Ella’, which will be coming out in 2018 as well. So that’s a theatre project, the album and then a TV show that will be aired on the BBC about me talking about Ella’s life and singing and all that stuff and having guests.”

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