arts

Sarah Jane Morris Sings John Martyn

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ALTHOUGH it is nearly 10 years since legendary singer-songwriter and guitarist John Martyn passed away, his music still lives on.

Very much so. He was a musical maestro, a maverick and a genius. Somewhat understated, a little under-appreciated. A non-conformist who produced a bounty of rich music including album Solid Air, acclaimed by some as one of the best British albums ever made.

Songs such as Solid Air, the thunderous Don’t Want to Know and the tender May You Never continue to be covered and played on music stations. His music also pops up on the playlists of those who appear on Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs – Tracey Thorn (Everything About The Girl) recently picking Solid Air as one of her eight chosen records, a song that reminds her of the first night she spent with long-time partner (and band mate) Ben Watt – now her husband.

Singer and song-writer Sarah Jane Morris is among those who regularly ends her concerts with a rousing version of Don’t Want To Know – a song made for her deep, deep voice and her overwhelming sense of justice.

‘I don’t want to know about evil
Only want to know about love.’

As part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, and to coincide with the launch of Martyn inspired EP Sweet Little Mystery, Morris paid homage to the great man’s music with a set devoted to his music at the Southbank Centre in London.

Surrounded by a multitude of sublime musicians – including Tony Remy on acoustic guitar, Tim Cansfield on guitar, Henry Thomas on bass guitar and Martyn Barker on drums – and exquisite backing vocals from Tessa Niles and Gina Foster, Morris did not disappoint. She poured her heart and soul into Martyn’s lyrics that often embrace a mix of emotions – from angst through to love.

She interspersed tracks from her EP (the slightly troubling Call Me, Don’t Want To Know, Over The Hill, I Couldn’t Love You More and the beautiful Sweet Little Mystery) with other Martyn songs that linger in the memory like gold-dust. The likes of Head and Heart, the glorious Solid Air, One World, a fast and upbeat Carmine and the outstanding May You Never that almost makes you want to weep.

Of course it all ended uproariously with a sing-along version of Don’t Want To Know that got a sizeable chunk of the Southbank Centre audience out of their seats and swaying their hips.

A fine tribute to a superb musician. Morris, a magnificent live performer, will do it all again in May next year at the Southbank Centre when her CD – rather than EP – tribute to Martyn will be revealed to the world. Make a note in your diary – May 14. It could be quite a night. One sweet little mystery. Don’t want to know? Of course, you do.

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