Morgana King may be best known from her performances as Mama Corleone in the first two "Godfather" films, and--to a somewhat lesser extent--for her '60s hit version of "Taste of Honey." Both before and after her film and pop music successes, however, King has been an intriguing jazz singer, one of a handful of artists with almost instantly recognizable styles.
King has been making only rare appearances lately as a performer, but she turned up at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel's Cinegrill on Sunday evening for an event that was both a performance and a 70th birthday celebration. And her singing was as unique as ever, her sound as idiosyncratic as it was in her pre-"Taste of Honey" jazz days, her capacity to interpret and illuminate a song still first-rate.
Working with guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Jim Hughart (both of whom had just completed a four-day run with another distinctive singer, Bob Dorough) and longtime associate Joe Carrero on drums, King offered a program dominated by familiar standards. But, in her carefully crafted renderings, each emerged with sparkling new facets. Even a rock-era pop ballad such as Leon Russell's "A Song for You" became considerably more than a Top 40 number, as King reached past the sometimes disjointed lyrics to find the emotional heart of the song.