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bilgewater posted a topic in ArtistsI'm eager to hear thoughts on the place of Joni Mitchell's music and influence within the decades-long movement to find new jazz vocal repertoire (or instrumentals based on vocal songs) from outside the jazz canon, notably outside the "great American songbook." The movement really came on my radar with the rise of Cassandra Wilson and her movement from a decade of virtuosically singing older standards along with new non-pop jazz with M-Base collective to circulating startling arrangements of "new standards" on her albums Blue Light Til Dawn (1993, including songs by Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, and Robert Johnson) and New Moon Daughter (1995, including songs by U2, Neil Young, and Son House) and ever after. After Cassandra, the deluge. Because she is such a refined and captivating singer, collaborates with brilliant musicians, and because she reached a big audience, the floodgates opened. But as the floodgates opened, to what rock-era songwriters did jazzers--esp jazz singers--turn? I'm curious if folks think there was something distinctly amenable to jazz interpretation (expanding the harmonic palette, ornamenting the melodies, introducing counter-melodies, completely changing the rhythm and groove) in Joni Mitchell's songs as compared to those she considered her songwriters inspirations and peers--notably Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen--and those who were her contemporaries or near-contemporaries as singer-songwriters (say, David Crosby, James Taylor, Carole King, or for that matter, the Beatles, British Invasion bands). Jazz musicians may like Joni Mitchell because the admiration is reciprocated. It's easier to like someone when they like you back, right? She has always named Miles Davis as her musical hero, her fave Miles band as the second great quintet, and her favorite album as Nefertiti. And of course she collaborated at length with Jaco Pastorius, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Brian Blade, along with Tom Scott and the LA Express. (And Hancock's 2007 album of interpretations was a watershed.) These factors distinguish her recording career from those of Dylan, Cohen, Crosby, Taylor, King et al. But the question is: what is about these compositions (esp. in her first recording decade) as such that speaks to some later jazz musicians (not only vocalists)? What is it about her harmonic sensibility, the character of her melodies, her phrasing, her lyrics? I'm writing a book on these and other Mitchellian topics. Or, perhaps, am I so lost in Mitchell-land that I've missed the forest for the trees and there is in fact a strong tradition of jazz interpretations of Dylan, Cohen, et al, in the post-Cassandra-Wilson era of "new standards"?
This past week’s Night Lights show explores Joni Mitchell’s 1970s jazz-influenced recordings (plus several post-1980 jazz encounters as well), with Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancocl among the supporting cast: Joni + Jazz: Joni Mitchell