Niki King – The Songs of Duke Ellington, 3 Bristo Place, Friday July 25th ***
Singer Niki King brought her stylish Ellington show back to Edinburgh (it was part of the British Vocal Jazz Festival during last year’s Fringe) on Friday night. The local singer can clearly do no wrong as far as her many loyal followers are concerned but this concert was very much a game of two halves – and for the first half (and on the iconic Mood Indigo later on), it looked as if Ellington, and devotees of the Duke, were the losers. Why? Because she avoided singing – even just once in each song – the melody that the legendary composer wrote. And not only that, but she killed the mood of such ballads as I Got It Bad and I Didn’t Know About You with shouty climaxes; a total contrast to the sensitive accompaniment from her band, notably the elegant Euan Stevenson on piano.
The Duke was accorded more respect by King on a couple of second half ballads which compensated significantly for the earlier trauma: Something to Live For and, especially, Sophisticated Lady – a powerful, simply sung, duet with Stevenson – were stand-outs, as was a thrilling Caravan, introduced by a dynamic drum solo by Alyn Cosker.
* First published in The Scotsman, Monday July 28th