NO one currently brings more passion, vocal dexterity and sincerity to their music than Sarah Jane Morris. Whether it’s railing against injustice or infusing the songs of the late great John Martyn with a little bit of magic dust, Morris live is not to be missed.
Appearing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for a three-night run – some 26 years after making her debut in her Soho ‘front room’ – Morris was on premier-cru form as she delivered a fine menu of songs from her latest album Sweet Little Mystery. Interpretations of songs written by Martyn whom Morris admits she had a crush on as a 14-year-old – indeed one that she has yet to shake off and probably never will. For the record, she recently celebrated her 60th birthday, although you wouldn’t think it judging by her dynamic on-stage presence.
Although love songs in their own right, the stamp of Morris – and her left hand, right hand man Tony Remy – is all over them. Her deep, deep voice gives Martyn’s lyrics an extra emotional edge, turning songs such as Couldn’t Love You More, Send Me One Line (not on the album) and Solid Air (Martyn’s tribute to Nick Drake) into magical music tours. I defy anyone to listen to Solid Air and not experience a massive attack of the goosebumps.
These achingly beautiful songs are perfectly complemented by the upbeat Over The Hill and Martyn’s Glorious Fool (a political diatribe against the perpetual lies of President Reagan, although I imagine it is President Trump who is more in Morris’s sights). Sweet Little Mystery ends on a cappella while May You Never begins with Morris emitting sounds more redolent of the Amazon than London W1. Both incredible and thrilling.
Morris surrounds herself with brilliant musicians, which massively adds to the musical experience. Remy’s guitar work is a joy to behold throughout, but especially on One World. Tim Cansfield, acoustic guitar, provides an infusion of chords on Solid Air, while occasionally adding subtle backing vocals. Henry Thomas’s bass guitar on Head And Heart is exceptional (as is Cansfield’s backing vocals) while Martyn Barker (drums) and Dominic Miller (guitar) excel throughout.
No Morris concert is without a political or social edge. No song displays this more than John Lennon’s Imagine as she adds an extra verse to highlight the ongoing refugee crisis that sees millions of people every year fleeing from hunger, poverty and war. ‘No bombs in my name,’ she beseeches. ‘Just peace in my name. Just love in my name.’ Absolutely.
With Morris getting everyone on their feet to end the show with John Martyn’s I Don’t Wanna Know – ‘I don’t want to know about evil, only want to know about love’- this was a night to savour. Live music at its very best. Morris at her radiant and passionate very best.
Buy the album (Sweet Little Mystery) if you haven’t already and then proceed to get all loved up.