Last night I saw Morgan James sing at Dominion NYC. Ms. James is an alumni of numerous Broadway shows and will be part of the upcoming Wonderland,. She was amazing.
Whatever expectations you might have about a beautiful blond young lady from Broadway singing in a club are bowled over right from the gate. Ms. James saunters down a circular staircase looking a bit like younger Diana Krall channelling Nancy Sinatra – in the best way. It is a tough start to the act, because she is going to have to live up to the expectations and this is not a modest entrance. Then Ms. James sings and the audience erupts in applause. The small house is packed with people that know her. You can tell who is new to her concerts because their jaws hit the floor. After I picked mine up, I sat rapturous.
It is impossible to pin down the sound of Morgan James, it is uniquely hers. For those of us old enough to remember, she is a torch singer. To compare, she reminded me of Dusty Springfield and Lena Horne. She was great. Occasionally, and always appropriately, the musical theatre training came through. She can hold a note, or emote with the best of them. It is easy to imagine her belting out an end-of-Act-One number.
But her strength is more personal. She pins down the room with her eyes and pulls the listener into the songs. Her set was made up of songs I wasn’t familiar with – so I can’t call out exceptional pieces. However, of particular note to me were the songs done with only percussion and her voice – or the piano and her voice. The blend was unique, not Jazz as we think of it, but a different sort of harmony.
Ms. James was backed by an excellent 7 piece combo that complimented her well. Never overpowering nor straining to keep up, the band and Ms. James worked the room like an experienced team.
You can stay on top of upcoming gigs at www.MorganJames.org. If you go, you’ll probably find me sitting there. Having seen her once, I am a full convert.