BACK in the city of her birth, Sarah Jane Morris delighted the Turner Sims audience with a delicious mix of grittily-smooth soul, jazz and blues, sprinkled with friendly informative patter.
Twenty-odd years after the Communards’ Don’t Leave Me This Way and the infamous Me And Mrs Jones, Morris’s voice is deeper and stronger than ever with its astonishing four-octave range.
The current tour features material from her latest concept album Cello Songs, the band including composer and virtuoso cellist Enrico Melozzi, guitarist Tony Remy, Michael Rosen’s soaring saxophone, and the four babe cellists of The Cellestial Quartet.
The songs range from Boy George’s She Always Hangs Out Her Washing, through Tom Waits’ Blue Valentine to a new number Morris dedicates to her mum – sadly suffering from leukaemia – I Wanna Go Home.
Sounding like a gorgeous mix of Nina Simone and Janis Joplin on Love Is Pain, Morris’s voice has the texture and depth of Roland Kirk’s extraordinary tenor sax.
From her upcoming blues album, Morris showcased the throbbing Deep Blue Well and the driving, unusually titled Gay Man Blues featuring swooping stabbing scat singing and chunky cellos, with subtle nods to the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby and Queen’s We Will Rock You.
The finale – Morris’s original Mother Of God – produced a standing ovation.
Acknowledging her musical influences include Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Stevie Wonder, Morris’s encore was Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released with enthusiastic audience participation.