Canadian-born singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, ninth on Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time, turns 75 this month. Though best known as a ‘70s folk-pop musician, Mitchell’s jazz influences run deep: she’s collaborated with the likes of Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and, most notably, Charles Mingus. Jazz singers love interpreting Joni Mitchell material because of this jazz influence—the innately singable melodies, the deeply colored harmonies, the poetic lyrics.
To understand just how beloved Mitchell is among jazz singers, here’s a quick (unofficial and incomplete) list of those who’ve recorded Mitchell songs: Karrin Allyson, Becca Stevens, Cheryl Bentyne, Theo Bleckmann, Ann Hampton Callaway, Fay Claasen, Holly Cole, Denise Donatelli, Michael Feinstein, Melody Gardot, Sara Gazarek, Diana Krall, Karin Krog, Amy London, Jane Monheit, Judy Niemack, John Proulx, Diane Reeves, Janis Siegel, Bria Skonberg, Luciana Souza, Cassandra Wilson and Andrea Wolper. Songbook composers aside, is there another popular songwriter so well represented in vocal jazz?
Rhode Island-based Debra Mann, who credits Mitchell’s work as the inspiration for her own career in jazz, is the most recent singer to launch a Mitchell tribute disc. The album, Full Circle: The Music of Joni Mitchell (Whaling City Sound) tackles a dozen of Mitchell’s better-known tunes (“Circle Game”, “Big Yellow Taxi”, “A Case Of You”); Mann’s fresh arrangements and expert phrasing provide a new context for the material, even as the singer references Mitchell’s own unique vocal sound. With this album Mann joins the ranks of singers offering compelling, definitive interpretations of The Mitchell Songbook.
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by Kurt Gottschalk
We like to think of Joni Mitchell (who turns 75 this month) as a singular genius, but in truth her work is in no small part a product of the company she has kept. While she is one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic songwriters, her career can still be seen through the lens of, first, fellow folk travelers (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, et al.) and, later, fusion bohos (Pat Metheny, Tom Scott, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, The Brecker Brothers). Part of her genius was in bringing both camps to her own middle, adding layers of complexity to the singer-songwriter craft and then updating the jazz song from Broadway and Tin Pan Alley to long, linear narratives that matched the development of the form.
Her catalogue contains such natural grist for variation and improvisation that it’s surprising jazz players don’t pluck from it more often. Herbie Hancock and Peter Herbert both released albums of arrangements of her music and Fred Hersch, Keith Jarrett, Diana Krall, Brad Mehldau, Danilo Pérez, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves, Jamie Saft, Norma Winstone and Cassandra Wilson have all recorded Mitchell’s music to varying degrees of new interpretation.
continue reading THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD here page 31
Whaling City Sound has had at least one release on the JazzWeek chart for over 52 consecutive weeks.
#30 Monika Herzig SHEROES, peaked at 6, 25 weeks
#46 Benito Gonzalez, Gerry Gibbs, Essiet Essiet Passion Reverence Transcendence, peaked at 8, 23 weeks
#69 Jay Rodriguez, Your Sound, peaked at 9, 25 weeks
#74 Eric Wyatt, Look to the Sky, peaked at 16, 24 weeks
October 26: watch for new CLASSICAL release, Telemann Sonatas for Violin & Harpsichord Dorian Komanoff Bandy, Paul Cienniwa. Telemann (1681-1767) was one of music’s great mavericks: an aesthete with a restless mind and cosmopolitan tastes. During his nearly seven-decade career, he sampled every conceivable genre, idiom, and national style, and incorporated a dizzying number of them into his music. The violin sonatas on this disc are so wide-ranging in both idiom and expression that, heard together, they constitute a microcosm of Telemann’s art. Where many performances of these works include cello, Dorian Komanoff Bandy and Paul Cienniwa perform them in their original form, as duos that highlight the textural and expressive capacities of each instrument. The disc also includes the first-ever recording of one of Telemann’s early violin sonatas, a work he never published and whose manuscript is signed George Melante (a nearly anagrammatic pseudonym). These seven works are among the most adventurous, daring, and extraordinary in Telemann’s entire output.
Danny Bacher/Still Happy It’s evident from the get-go that Danny Bacher is an ascendant star. His humor, his delivery, his talent, his joie de vivre appear instantly and plentifully on his new album Still Happy, a rather odd title, considering he’s just arrived on the scene and that he’s, well, pretty happy already, it seems. Bacher honed his chops in the New York City jazz world, and he brings with him the confidence of someone who’s weathered the storm and is now better for it. His performance on the new album is seasoned and all-pro, a mix of youthful vigor and finger-popping vet. He bounces from oldies and goodies to classic takes on the Great American Songbook, all the while infusing them with dazzle and style. Produced by Jeff Levenson, the session features top talent, including Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson on bass, Alvester Garnett on drums, Rolando Morales-Matos on percussion, and horn players Charles Caranicas and Harry Allen. Surrounded by quality, Bacher’s voice and soprano sax truly rise to the occasion, especially on the predominantly upbeat material, like “Laughing at Life,” Bernstein’s “Lucky to Be Me,” “Hooray for Hollywood” and the title track. Bacher is always at home on the stage and presents his case with elegance and class, not to mention a little laughter.
#46 JazzWeek Debra Mann/Full Circle; The music of Joni Mitchell Watching Joni Mitchell morph from acoustic chanteuse to sophisticated interpreter of jazz, accompanied by geniuses like Pastorius, Shorter, Metheny and Brecker, among others, truly floored Debra Mann. The piano/voice teacher (Brown University and Wheaton College), and Berklee grad seized on the idea of taking Mitchell’s material further into jazz and began trying it out at clubs. It captivated her audiences in the same way it did Mann herself. “Joni’s lyrics, combined with her gorgeous melodies, carried on the wind of her unique voice, struck deep chords of feeling within me, and helped to frame that world with colors and sounds and meaning that I could understand and relate to.” “Full Circle” reflects on a lifetime of admiration for an artist who has been uncompromising in her approach to music and in writing, and this on the occasion of Mitchell turning 75 years old this year. “Not only is it really incredible material to work from,” says Mann, “it amazes me how universal Joni’s music is and how so many people respond to it.” On Full Circle, Mann and her sidemen — saxophonist Dino Govoni, guitarist Jay Azzolina, bassist Dave Zinno and drummer Marty Richards — reimagine some of Mitchell’s most popular tunes, holding onto the timeless melodies while overlaying it with an irrepressible swing feel, especially on songs like “Black Crow,” “Big Yellow Taxi” (from 1970’s Ladies of the Canyon) and the haunting “Blue,” the title track from her epic 1971 disc rendered in bossa nova style. “I’ve tried to keep it very recognizable by not changing it up so much, but still putting a jazz lens on it.” For Mann, that’s mission accomplished.
Sunday, Sept. 16. Debra Mann Record Release Concert. Debra Mann celebrates the much-anticipated release of her new recording, “Full Circle,” on Whaling City Sound. “Full Circle” features the music of Joni Mitchell, in celebration of her 75th year. $22 ; $25. Doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7.
FALL RIVER — On Sunday, Sept. 16, Debra Mann returns to the Narrows Center for the Arts to celebrate the much-anticipated release of her new recording, “Full Circle,” on the Whaling City Sound label. “Full Circle” features the music of Joni Mitchell, in celebration of her 75th year. Mann and her band of world-class jazz musicians, Dino Govoni (sax); Jay Azzolina (guitar); Dave Zinno (upright bass); and Marty Richards (drums) interpret the iconic music of one of the most influential and revered songwriters of the 20th century.
Mann is widely recognized as Rhode Island’s premier jazz pianist, composer, and vocalist. She has performed extensively over three decades throughout New England at jazz clubs, concert halls, and festivals.
Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 on the day of the show. Doors open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m.
Narrows Center for the Arts is located at 16 Anawan St., Fall River, For details, visit www.narrowscenter.org or call 508-324-1926
November 16 will see the Debra Mann Quintet take the stage with Dino Govoni on sax/flute, Jay Azzolina on guitar, Dave Zinno on bass and Marty Richards on drums. They’ll be celebrating the release of their latest CD, Full Circle, which features the music of Joni Mitchell.
A special evening as Debra pay tribute to the music of the great Joni Mitchell.
Tickets are available for purchase on official Chan’s website