Review: Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Mica Paris

Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole (above), Mica Paris
(Concert in aid of World Hunger Day, Apollo Victoria SW1, January 9th 2011,review by Fran hardcastle. Photo credit: Ian Gavan at Getty Images)

Dionne Warwick had enlisted an impressive list of singers for the gala concert in aid of The Hunger Project at the Apollo Victoria.

Warwick opened the evening with a medley of her best known songs. With a warm and comforting persona and presence, and an energy belying her 70 years, she held the audience both relaxed and spellbound. Her voice has now grown from the notoriously silky smooth tones that made hits of Walk On By and I’ll Never Fall In Love Again. Her slightly smokier, salty sound enhances her ability to deliver a lyric with the experience of an artist who has lived through her songs.

A duet of I Say A Little Prayer introduced her son, singer-songwriter David Elliot (below). Elliot’s display of vocal dexterity was captivating.

For a charity that has a strong track record with empowering women in developing countries, the programming was very well pitched. Soul singer and ambassador for the Prince of Wales Trust, Mica Paris, arrived on stage looking dazzling in a glittering black number. She flexed her pop credentials with a rendition of her hit My One Temptation following with the suitably uplifting title track from latest album Born Again. Speaking to Mica after the show, she revealed to LondonJazz that she is soon to present a regular lifestyle show on Jazz FM. You heard it hear first.

After a programme of albeit some exceptionally good soul and pop, I welcomed the glimpses of jazz prior to what was for me the main event, Natalie Cole. Dancer Steven McRae’s tap to Sing! Sing! Sing! brought a chance to pay attention to Ms Warwick’s excellent musicians. Drummer Jeffrey Lewis was given the opportunity to pound the beat with a fat powerful sound. One of our own, Jumoke Fashola, delivered a warm version of God Bless the Child with some lovely bluesy solo moments from pianist Anthony Strong. The London Community Gospel Choir had Dionne Warwick and the entire bass section of the Southbank Sinfonia dancing away behind them with their performance of Love Train. Prompting Warwick, who started her career as a gospel singer, to thank them with ‘If you can’t feel gospel music, then you can’t feel’. Quite.

But the absolute highlight of the evening came with an all too brief appearance from Natalie Cole. She arrived to an ecstatic, welcoming audience, looking statuesquely stunning in her killer heels and slinky dress. Returning to the stage for a duet with Warwick of Isaac Hayes’ Déjà vu, we saw glimpses of her lovely subtle pop sound. Keyboard player Todd Hunter (thanks reader!) brought some delicate mellow moments to the chart.

And as for Natalie Cole’s impeccable phrasing, charm and wit – all reminiscent of her father – in Better Than Anything, only one response will do: yes, it was.

Mica Paris will be at the Jazz Café Camden on 25 and 26 February.

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