Nov 6, 2013
Listening to the music of Joni Mitchell in the late 1970’s was one of my gateways to enjoying jazz. The first Joni album I ever bought was Court and Spark, one of the first times she used a full band to flesh out her increasingly complex compositions. Included on that classic album was a cover of the song “Twisted”, which had been a hit for Lambert, Hendricks and Ross a decade before. I checked out the original, and continued to dig into jazz recordings from there. At 15, the road was opening up before me.
Her next album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, found her dabbling in world music (“The Jungle Line”), and increasingly political and feminist themed recordings with “Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow,” “Shades of Scarlet Conquering,” and the juxtaposing medley of her “Harry’s House” with the standard “Centerpiece,” written by Harry “Sweets” Edison and Jon Hendricks.. My dad hipped me to John Coltrane’s reading of “Centerpiece,” one of the first times I heard Coltrane’s lyricism. A few years later, I was exposed to the music of Charles Minugs in a new way when Joni collaborated with him on Mingus.
Tierney Sutton reminded me in our conversation last month that Joni was in many ways a great jazz singer, particularly on her overlooked Both Sides Now album, which features great orchestrations by Vince Mendoza. Therefore, as part of her 70th birthday celebration here at Straight No Chaser, I present Podcast 390, “Joni Sings Jazz”, with Joni singing jazz standards or tunes of hers that qualify as jazz recordings in my book, including:
Herbie Hancock – “Summertime” from Gershwin’s World.
Joni Mitchell – “You’re My Thrill” from Both Sides Now.
Joni Mitchell – “Harry’s House/Centerpiece” from The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
Joni Mitchell – “Twisted” from Court and Spark.
Herbie Hancock – “The Man I Love” from Gershwin’s World
Joni Mitchell – “Don’t Go to Strangers” from Both Sides Now
Herbie Hancock – “Tea Leaf Prophecy” from River: The Joni Letters.
Joni Mitchell – “Stormy Weather” from Both Sides Now.
Joni Mitchell – “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” from Mingus.