“Smile even though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking,” Americana singer Sarah King sweetly croons, opening her set in IATI Theater’s intimate and newly finished concert hall. Performing a capella, King performs a jazz standard without aural distractions, soothing all with a voice so richly complex. Seamlessly, King transitions between bright highs and cool lows, a range that is at once broad, warm and smooth.
Evoking an Ella-esque charm, King pulls out a ukulele to accompany herself, confessing that the transition from cumbersome guitar to tiny ukulele still throws off her balance. Nevertheless, she maintains her stead, and continues to command the stage with the silliness of a kindergartener and the poise of an experienced performer.
Mid-way through a song, King realizes she has neglected to plug in her uke. The whole room chuckles, but quickly quiets as a fuller sound transforms the space, so much so that King must remove her shoes. There is a felt bond between audience and performer–we no longer sit in a dimly lit room and passively enjoy King’s song, but experience her performance alongside her. Finding content in her selection of solo works, she ushers an 8 piece band to the stage. Then things got literally wild.
Plunging into a jazz-funk fusion, the band’s presence brought out a side of King only hinted at in her solo performance. Carefree child turned sultry jazz vixen, commanding a wall of sound–a show that began in near stillness is now an ecstatic burst of energy.
The band (drums, bass, hand percussion, trumpet, trombone, bass sax, regular sax, guitar and Miss King’s voice and ukulele) is professional, well-rehearsed, and has a tight horn section. The band began as a collaboration between King and multi-instrumentalist Jose Conde. This performance was the band’s debut.
Sarah King’s concert at IATI Theater marks the second night of the venue’s annual Performing Arts Marathon (PAM). This year’s PAM lineup features an eclectic grouping of talented and innovative performers, including Cloud of Fools Theater Company (Europa) , Marjuan Canady (Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale). The program ranges from dance to theater to interdisciplinary arts. For a full schedule listing and ticketing, visit the PAM website. To follow Sarah King’s performance schedule and stream selections from her upcoming demo EP, visit her website.