Morgan James – "Who’s Gonna Listen to You?" – Everybody!
By: Sandi Durell
Blond, sinewy, sensually beautiful Morgan James whirls through your brain like a tornado – – a storm erupting inwardly, quietly, and with the ultimate control. Who’s this white girl from California who can sing so soulfully and powerfully?
Morgan is currently in the Broadway cast of Motown the Musical, playing the role of Teena Marie. Or you might have seen this Juilliard trained soprano in Godspell. What’s hard to fathom, looking at her svelte frame, is the set of vocal apparatus with which she is blessed as she casts a spell over the audience at 54 Below. Even Clive Davis seemed engrossed in her stylistic magic.
She runs the gamut with some songs from her recent debut CD "Morgan James Live" (recorded at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Centre) which encompasses her idol Nina Simone ("Save Me" and "Trouble in Mind"), the latter blues tune enhanced by Ravi Best’s fine trumpet solo. There’s also a little bit of Prince (How Come You Don’t Call Me?), some Billie Holiday ("Tell Me More and Then Some") and some original material in collaboration with her guitarist and Barron ("You Can’t Handle Me"). Guitarist Doug Wamble also wrote "Like You Love Her," a blues tune with funky lyrics – – I love you like you love her but she loves you like you love me – –
Her grasp on R & B, pop and funk with a vocal range that reaches to the stratosphere, can produce some high screamer notes that go on forever. Well, I guess if you’ve got ‘em, flaunt ‘em! And the audience loved ‘em!
She wails on the slow plaintive "Who’s Gonna Listen to You?" (which she wrote) and is a stalker in Doug Wamble’s "Hunter."
Her fine musicians, led by piano/keyboardist Dave Cook (the night I attended), included Tony Mason on Drums, Jeff Hanley on Bass, Mike Fahie on Trombone, Adam Kolker on sax and as noted Doug Wamble on Guitar and Ravi Best on Trumpet.
Yes, the joint was jumpin’ with fans, cast members from Motown the Musical, Doug Morris (Epic Records) and Clive Davis.
There’s another show you can catch on July 15th at 9:30 pm at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, (Cellar), NYC 866 468-7619
Photography: Stephen Sorokoff