Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Morgan James Live: Morgan James

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

It may seem doubly foolhardy for a young, white Broadway singer to dive headlong into the Nina Simone songbook for her debut album, and to record that album’s dozen tracks live. But Idaho-born, Juilliard-trained Morgan James proves largely up to the task, as impressively demonstrated throughout this 60-minute set captured at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola last summer. Wisely, James surrounded herself with top-shelf players, including saxophonist Ron Blake, guitarist Doug Wamble, pianist David Cook, bassist David Finck and drummer Clarence Penn. They individually and collectively supply smart, sensitive support.

Though James exhibits neither Simone’s grit nor her anger, and sensibly sidesteps such fervent signatures as “Four Women” and “Mississippi Goddamn,” she is big-voiced and remarkably soulful-most notably on an “I Put a Spell on You” that smacks of Etta James and a muscular “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” She transforms “Don’t Explain” into a shadowy theatre piece; pairs superbly with Penn on “Be My Husband”; channels her inner Tina Turner on “Save Me” and “Trouble in Mind”; and finds a fresh, frisky way to interpret “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published