SARAH Jane Morris is an exceptional musical talent. Put her on stage alone and she would captivate all before her with her extraordinary nerve-end tingling voice (a thrilling contralto).
But pair her with sublime guitarists Tony Remy and Tim Cansfield – and you have a recipe for the equivalent of musical angel delight.
So it was the case at The Coronet Theatre in London’s Notting Hill (October 29 to 31) where Morris and her acoustic guitar maestros performed music from Sweet Little Mystery. An album comprising their interpretations of some of the great music made by the late (great) John Martyn. An individual who died 10 years ago, departed the world far too early (he was only 60), but who left behind a rich song book.
As is her way, Martyn’s songs have all been given a heavy sprinkling of Morris’s (and Remy’s) magic dust. The result is the equivalent of musical ecstasy, no more so than on Solid Air (a song written for Nick Drake just before he committed suicide) where Morris’s voice sinks to depths few other performers can reach. It’s goosebump making. An experience all music lovers should enjoy – it brought tears to this reviewer’s eyes (October 29).
There was plenty more to admire besides Solid Air. The beautiful love song that is Couldn’t Love You More, the gloriously political Glorious Fool (aimed originally at Ronald Reagan but dedicated by Morris to Trump) and a super version of May You Never, a Martyn song made famous by Eric Clapton. And a rousing, inclusive I Don’t Wanna Know – a song that puts love above evil (I don’t wanna know ‘bout evil, I only wanna know ‘bout love). Words that encapsulated Martyn’s life as he fought against both the bottle and a cacophony of drugs.
The show’s visual sparseness – Morris standing between her seated guitarists on a blackened stage – added to the musical enjoyment, concentrating the mind on Morris’s extraordinary voice and Cansfield’s/Remy’s magic fingers.
In between songs, the audience were treated to verbal vignettes from those who knew Martyn – the likes of Jim McKnight (great friend), Eddi Reader (Fairground Attraction) and Linda Thompson (a dear friend of Drake). All contained within a video compiled by talented filmmaker Rod Morris (Morris’s brother) that also included footage of Martyn performing on Brighton beach (bottle of wine not far away).
Sarah Jane also explained Martyn’s influence in her own musical journey – a teenage crush that developed into a deep appreciation of his music and that culminated in Sweet Little Mystery. An album that is a homage to John Martyn, but truly Sarah Jane Morris’s own.
At the interval Morris implored the audience to partake in a whisky or two in The Coronet Theatre’s trendy bar. To raise our glasses to John Martyn The Great. We did, but not before acknowledging the sublime talent that is Sarah Jane Morris.
If you can catch this show – directed adeptly by comedian Mark Thomas – in the months ahead, you will be in for a musical treat. Enjoyment guaranteed.