Mica Paris: 'I just went for things that blew my head off'
- Fiona Shepherd
- 13 July 2018
British soul pop icon marks the centenary of jazz great Ella Fitzgerald and embarks on a fresh sonic adventure
It has been 30 years since Mica Paris first made an elegant splash with the sweet soul pop of her debut hit 'My One Temptation', leading to a brace of prestige collaborations with many of her heroes from Prince to Bobby Womack, Natalie Cole to Dave Gilmour. Since then she's bobbed in and out of the spotlight as a radio and television presenter and personality (from What Not to Wear to Strictly Come Dancing) and stage and screen actress, most recently taking on the powerhouse role of Mama Morton in the UK touring production of Chicago. She's busier than ever, yet hasn't released an album in nine years.
But even that is about to change, thanks to another of her all-time musical heroes. To the delight of her jazz-loving dad, Paris has progressed from her south London soul and gospel roots to embrace the intuitive phrasing and spontaneous skatting of jazz, embarking on a series of concerts celebrating the centenary of Ella Fitzgerald.
'Jazz is feel,' she says of her latest territory. 'When you do pop, the structure of the song must remain the same all the time. Jazz is very much spiritual: you let the music take you where it's gonna go and you don't know where the hell that is.'
Fitzgerald fans will be aware that her centenary year was 2017 but Paris' tribute has been so successful that she has trucked right on to meet demand, and will bring her Ella show to Fringe by the Sea. A two-song EP recorded with the Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra has led to plans for a full album of Ella standards. 'I just went for things that blew my head off,' says Paris of the tricky task of representing such a rich and varied repertoire. '"Love for Sale" is a great song: how can you not want that?'
Paris has been so inspired by her jazz odyssey that she's working on another album, this one featuring original material co-written and produced with her Britsoul contemporary Omar, and she's also developing a play of Fitzgerald's life, in which she will star. 'I felt she hadn't been given the props; no one was celebrating her life,' Paris says. 'A lot of people don't really know what happened and it was pretty amazing. She was managing her own band. She was a feminist and didn't know it.'