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Birmingham Evening Post
By Stephen King
There is something unique about Sarah Jane Morris. This talented singer/songwriter is, sadly rarely seen in these parts and spends most of her professional life working abroad.
For an artist like Sarah Jane to be able to project herself to the full, she needs the assistance of a good supporting band. However , right from the opening bars of the first song "Don't Go To Strangers", any doubts in this direction were soon dispelled.
With Sarah Jane's regular drummer otherwise committed for the evening, her musicians were made up of Paul Hirsch on keyboards, Mornington Lockett on saxophones, Henry Thomas on bass guitar Kwaku Dzidzornu on percussion/ backing vocals- with whom Sarah Jane has written many of her last two albums that were featured during the two sets.
The attentive audience were captivated as the flame haired singer introduced songs like "Love Me Like You Used To" about personal relationships as well as fine versions of tunes by other artists such as Sting and Paul Weller.
Sarah Jane's musical style moves freely through jazz and soul to funk-rock and rhythm and blues with just the right amount of dramatic effectiveness. Her gesticulating hand movements and vocal resonance were particularly noticeable on the slow burning 'Living For The Flame' and a "very angry" 'Remember Me'.
A final treat came when 17 year old drum protegee Jayme Tovey (a student of Sarah Jane's) joined the band to brilliant effect for the last few numbers.
By Liz Burcher
The last time I saw Sarah Jane Morris perform I was crushed at the front of a crowd of thousands as she sang on Glastonbury's Festival Stage One.
On Saturday night with about 140 others, in the intimate atmosphere of The Other Place Theatre I was privileged enough to hear this fantastic Walton based singer once again as part of The Royal Shakespeare Company's Fringe Festival.
My experience of Sarah Jane's performances is ironically appropriate. Say her name to your average Brit and his brows will furrow in bewilderment. Say "the sexy ginger bint that provided the powerful vocals on "The Communards hit track "Don't leave me this way' and everyone knows who you mean.
But the definition does not even begin to do this talented justice. Over a decade on and Sarah Jane has moved on and moved up as continental Europeans will testify.
A blistering, eclectic and two hour set, the music refuses to be pigeon holed; think blues, think funk and think dark smokey rooms in the hipper parts of London. In fact I think it's just what Stratford needs.
Sarah Jane's unbelievably deep voice comes out of an unbelievably big mouth - and the power hits you in the belly and travels tingling up your spine. With a great backing band including a jet lagged guitarist the music making went on and on.
A song writer as well, Sarah Jane played some treats of tunes from her latest album 'Fallen Angel'- as well as digging past by singing material from an album recorded several years ago at 'Ronnie Scott's.'
Joe public may not have heard of her but the music world has. It can't be bad to have Paul Weller pen a song for you- and 'Leaves Around The Door' has to be one of his best.
If at the end of such a howlingly good performance you still had lingering doubts that Sarah Jane has spent the last decade blooming then her improvised rendition of her mainstream millstone 'Don't Leave Me This Way should have cleared them for good.
Intensely sexy, deeply sensual and completely captivating, the rumor is she will be persuaded back very soon. A big yes please.
AND IN YOUR FACE
Always an emotional, driven sort of performer, Sarah Jane Morris is singing with even greater abandon these days. Down and dirty is where it's currently at, in your face and so forth.
Titles like 'Fallen Angel' and 'Ever Gonna Make It' hint at a state of near-desperation, but whatever her professional motivation, she's very watchable at the moment. Eyes blazing and arms aloft, she fronts a strange drumless band featuring Scott Firth on Californian beach guitar, Paul Hirsch on arranger's piano, anchor man Henry Thomas on bass guitar and Kwaku Dzidzornu on percussion. Mornington Lockett supplies the jazz interest with clarinet solos as well as nuggety tenor and soprano sax work, but Sarah Jane is very much the focal point.
When that throaty, extraordinarily deep voice comes booming out of that pale, auburn-haired face, it's a bit like the possession scene from The Exorcist.
Jazz stars who have made it big usually had to do something other than just play an instrument. Louis Armstrong's success came not from his angelic trumpet-playing, but from his gritty vocals. Nat Cole, who looked like a lounge bar-savant who'd be there till a quarter-to-three, sidelined his piano virtuosity with a voice like a caress.
Some of this week's gigs have highlighted the delicacy of the balance between the musical and the extra musical. At Ronnie Scott's, Sarah Jane Morris, a flamboyant, idiosyncratic singer on the borders of jazz, soul and pop, is unquestionably giving the audience a lot to look at, but it works without detracting at all from her musical impact. Weaving, swaying, shaking a cascade of red hair and gesticulating balletically, she suggests a struggle to regulate the escape of a tempest of inner emotions out into the world around her.
The mannerisms of intense spontaneity (conversational sounds of inquiry, defiance and acquiescence threaded around pungent lyrics) are carefully crafted with Morris, but their connection to a distinctive and personal jazz-pop repertoire keeps the crowd watching and listening to her every move.
Sarah Jane Morris at the Stereo Society (selected links):
To Sarah Jane's home page (all links)
To the full text of Sarah Jane Morris' interview
To the Hippodrome EFG London Jazz Festival gig review
To the Union Chapel, London, gig review
To audio clips from Sarah Jane's interview
To Sarah Jane's recent photo gallery
To Sarah Jane's History photo gallery
Jane Morris external:
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