ArtsBeat

Catch Idaho native Morgan James and her sexy-sultry voice on Saturday

R&B singer Morgan James returns to her home state for a performance on Saturday, June 17, of her first indie produced album “Reckless Abandon.”
R&B singer Morgan James returns to her home state for a performance on Saturday, June 17, of her first indie produced album “Reckless Abandon.”

It’s fun to discover an Idaho artist who is out in the world, performing and making a name. Meet Morgan James, a classical singer, turned Broadway performer, turned R&B-pop diva.

“I never intended to become a pop singer,” James said. “It just came out of that New York City struggle to make it.”

Now, she’s on the road with her first self-produced and all-original album, “Reckless Abandon.” James and her band will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at The Olympic, 1009 Main St., Boise. Tickets are $18 in advance at EventBrite.com, $20 at the door.

“There will be a ton of family there,” she says.

James was born in Boise. She and her family lived in Pocatello until she was 12. Her family moved around a bit and ended up in the central California city of Modesto. After high school there, James when to The Juilliard School in New York City to study classical voice, but during that time she set her sights on Broadway.

“I’d always had an affinity for musical theater,” James says. But that’s not an easy thing to do, and the journey to her first Broadway show — the 2010 production of “The Addams Family” — started her on the path to rediscovering her voice.

“When I got my first show, I also started a band,” she says. “We weren’t great but it was a way to learn about my voice, how to arrange music and how to lead a band.”

Now her voice is less opera and Broadway belt and more sultry soul and R&B, with an amazing control and range that come from her classical training.

James did four Broadway shows in all: The others were 2011’s “Wonderland,” in which she understudied the lead character of Alice, the 2011 revival of “Godspell” and 2013’s “Motown: The Musical.”

That last show truly changed her life because she met Barry Gordy Jr., who co-produced and wrote the book for the Tony-nominated musical. Gordy became her mentor and helped her land a recording contract with Epic Records. She did two albums for Epic, learning the ropes and the difficulties of the business, and is now striking out on her own.

Her most noted single so far is a cover of Prince’s “Call My Name,” which hit No. 15 on Billboard’s Urban Adult Contemporary chart.

“Reckless Abandon” is clearly not. James has been in control every step of the way. She co-wrote all of its 12 tracks and helped master and produce it. She has been on the road since March with her band, which includes her husband, guitarist Doug Wamble, and their Cavalier King spaniel Charles Luther.

Dance with Project Flux

Boise’s Project Flux likes to do dance with a difference — putting performances into locations you don’t expect. Next weekend, artistic director Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill really puts that to the test with her full-on collaboration with Los Angeles dance duo Whyteberg, made up of Boise-raised dancer Gracie Whyte and L.A.’s Laura Berg.

They will perform “As Occurred, As Recalled” at 8 p.m. Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, at Ming Studios, 420 S. 6th St., Boise. Tickets are $25 in advance at EventBrite, $30 at the door.

Sakolsky-Basquill and Whyte met in 2011 when Sakolsky-Basquill first moved to Boise. Whyte grew up here and started her training with Balance Dance Co., a now disbanded young dancer’s modern company.

“We got together in a studio, turned on A Tribe Called Quest and started moving,” Sakolsky-Basquill says. “She was like, ‘So, you’re my movement soul mate.’ 

Their companies have the same mission to put dance in new spaces. Whyteberg recently did this project in L.A.’s Chinatown. In Boise, “As Occurred, As Recalled” will be less of a communitywide experience and more of an intimate art installation in spaces along the block on 6th Street between Front and Broad streets: Ming Studios, Classic Design Studio, Peace Valley Dry Goods, Jordan-Wilcomb Construction and Boise Brewing Company.

The audience will go in waves to experience choreographed and improvised vignettes that seem unrelated but tie together in the end. The performance blends dancers from Boise, New York City, L.A., Seattle and Salt Lake City.

“We’re performing in a loop,” Sakolsky-Basquill says. “Each group will see things in a different order, so when you get to the end, everyone will have their own experience.”

More info: ProjectFluxDance.org; Whyteberg.org.

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