NIKI KING SINGS BILLIE HOLIDAY **** BOSCO THEATRE, EDINBURGH
FIFTY years on from the death of Billie Holiday, one of the most influential voices in 20th century popular music, Niki King, delivered a powerful and often moving tribute in this Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival concert.
With a lithe and soulful voice of her own, she didn't try to slavishly impersonate Lady Day – and didn't wear a gardenia in her hair – but King did give a memorably impassioned performance which reflected enough of Billie Holiday's articulation; an occasional vocal curl or slide hinting at the wayward slur and phrase-stretching of the jazz icon.
Accompanied by the superb trio of pianist and arranger Paul Harrison, Aidan O'Donnell on double bass and Doug Hough on drums, King tapped into something of the pain which permeated Holiday's life and music with the opening Don't Explain and Good Morning Heartache, but also delivering the likes of Them There Eyes and I Hear Music with up-tempo abandon, driven impeccably by the band.
Elsewhere, there was the poised, sensuous delivery of My Man and a fine, funky take on Willow Weep For Me, while she really let rip in a mighty rendition of Tell Me More And Then Some.
And there was Strange Fruit, the cry of a persecuted people informed by Holiday's own damaged life. King quietly caught the terrible, brooding indictment of the song in this tour de force performance.