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Sarah Jane Morris – Live Music Review

SARAH Jane Morris made her debut at Ronnie Scott’s 28 years ago. She has been coming back ever since. She is ingrained into the jazz club’s DNA and I imagine she will be invited back for as long as she wishes.

Although now in her early 60s, Sarah Jane has lost none of her passion or drive. Indeed, she seems in turbo-charged mode and her live performances remain tour de forces.

No concert is ever quite the same, but you are always guaranteed to be blown away by her extraordinarily deep voice – and have your ears burnt at some stage by Sarah Jane’s passionate views on social justice.

Living in St Leonards-on-Sea on the south coast (swimming regularly) and happily married (to artist Mark), Sarah Jane’s creative juices are overflowing.

On the horizon is the release of an album – The Sisterhood – that she, guitarist Tony Remy (her musical left and right hand man) and Mark have been working on since the grim days of Covid and lockdowns.

It is an album comprising songs that she and Tony have written – framed around ten female singers who have influenced her life beyond just music. Female icons: Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Kate Bush, Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin, Rickie Lee Jones, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, Joni  Mitchell and Annie Lennox.

The Sisterhood has been a difficult journey in terms of raising finance to fund the project, but Sarah is nothing but resourceful. She has crowd-funded, called in a few favours, conducted musical masterclasses and reinvented herself as a dress maker. Multi-talented.

The fruits of this work – a genuine labour of love – will be showcased in early October (Friday, 6th) at the Cadogan Hall in London. Sarah Jane says it has been a project ‘like no other’ and the night is likely to be a sell-out (tickets go on sale on Friday June 16).

Sarah Jane didn’t waste the opportunity provided by Ronnie’s on Wednesday night (June 14) to plug The Sisterhood before a sell-out audience. But it wasn’t the main focus of the night. The show was built around her rich back book of music – and in particular the album Sweet Little Mystery that she produced with her guitarist Tony Remy (her on-stage left and right hand man).

Released in 2019, just before Covid struck, Sweet Little Mystery pays homage to the wonderful music of  the late John Martyn – and it’s a masterpiece with Sarah Jane and Tony putting their unique stamp on Martyn’s work.

It’s easy to see why Sarah Jane loves Martyn’s work. There is a song about living on the streets (May You Never) – ‘May you never make your bed out in the cold.’ Also, One World which talks about the need to heel a divided world: as appropriate today as it was when released in 1977.

Both were delivered with verve by Sarah Jane as were Over The Hill (a song about Martyn’s tortured life as he struggled to contain his need for cocaine) and a tender Couldn’t Love You More. Lyrics sprinkled with magic dust:

‘And if you loved me ’til my eyes gave no more shine for you
If you walked beside me all the long way home
And if you wasted all of your time on me

Well, I couldn’t love you more
Just couldn’t love you more.’

Aside from Martyn, Sarah Jane also treated the house to a re-interpreted Imagine which talked about the world’s refugee crisis against a backdrop of global conflict: ‘no war in my name, just peace in my name.’

There was a beautiful ode to her late mother – Can You Feel The Love – taken from her acclaimed 2014 album Bloody Rain. And a wonderful version of Janis Joplin’s Piece Of My Heart.

Of course, no Sarah Jane concert is just about herself. There was a spine-tingling cameo from talented son Otis Coulter (a gifted singer) while near neighbour Mike Willis oversaw a foot-tapping rendition of Get High Get Low, accompanied by Otis and the Morris Singers (all women, all thrilled to be on stage, and all musically coached by Sarah Jane).

As for the band, they were marvellous – Remy thrilling the audience with his mastery of the guitar; Jason Rebello on keyboards, a laidback Tim Cansfield on guitar, an ever-smiling Henry Thomas on bass and Nic France on drums,

Quite a night. A tasty hors d’ouvre for the main event at Cadogan Hall in October. You can buy tickets on Friday at: https://cadoganhall.com/

https://www.sarahjanemorris.co.uk/

https://www.ronniescotts.co.uk/

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