Sing The Truth

State Theatre, January 14, 2013

 It was hardly an unreasonable expectation that, bundled together, Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright might deliver an even stronger performance than each does individually. Around flashes of that reality wafted a more pervasive sense of unfulfilled potential: of the component parts somehow cancelling out rather than turbocharging each other.

 Song-choice and programming played a part, and perhaps there were compromises in finding keys to suit all three when they sang together.

 Sing The Truth celebrates the music of female singers ranging from Miriam Makeba to Joni Mitchell. The latter’s Both Sides Now was among the most successful, with each singer taking a verse in her own style: Wright as soulful folk; Reeves as a jazz ballad; Kidjo as Afro-funk.

Lizz Wright, Angelique Kidjo and Dianne Reeves
Lizz Wright, Angelique Kidjo and Dianne Reeves

 Reeves may ultimately be blessed with the most remarkable voice, and Kidjo with the most compelling stage presence, but it was Wright who seduced with her richness of tone and the voluptuous way she let her lines unfold. The plethora of wannabe singers who screech through TV talent quests should absorb her warmth and restraint.

 Restraint is not a word that leaps to mind in relation to the live-wire Kidjo, who, as always, left the stage to dance, sing and high-five her way through the audience. Her voice – so potent in her own shows and on record – shrank surprisingly in this company, however.

 Also surprising was that the sound was adequate rather than glistening, and that the band, among the finest to visit these shores, was relegated to the musical shadows. James Genus (bass) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums, musical director) had solos, but an instrumental or two from a quintet including Geri Allen (piano) could have neatly divided the program. Even a jazz standard from Reeves with an Allen feature would have been welcome.

 The upshot was a good show with a lingering sense that a great one had got away. Meanwhile may we please have Lizz Wright back on her own?