Morgana King, who appears at Blues Alley through Sunday, is a quite remarkable pop singer who is inclined to, but not overwhelmed by, jazz phrasing. Her lines are lucid and controlled, allowing her to interpret songs drawn from sources as diverse as George Gershwin and Paul McCartney. A sign of her art, in fact, is her ability to make contemporary pop dreck like Gino Vanelli's "Feel Like Flying" sound like an undiscovered gem from the '50s, when the honest pop ballad was in vogue.
Ably backed by pianist Stef Scaggiari, bassist Paul Langosh and drummer Billy Reichenbach, King Breezed through a casually electric set. She is a particularly forceful and dramatic interpreter of ballads, effortlessly swooping between lows and highs with a daring sense of dynamics. King, who is confident within an astounding range, was particularly fluid on the bossa nova tune "Corcovado"; her voice smoothly propelled the melody even as it provided a percussive coloring.
King has breathtaking control an an almost casual diction; more important, she fills a room with compassionate lyricism, elevating familiar contemporary songs like Leon Russell's "A Song for You" or the ubiquitous "Everything Must Change" to quietly dazzling freshness. She seldom scatted, but her voice played freely with the melodies. When she finished with Gershwin's "S'Wonderful," it was s'right on the mark.