Friday, November 10, 2006

Jazz-era Joni

On the heels of the hint that she may be contemplating a new album, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame has announced that Joni Mitchell will be inducted in January.

What a perfect segue into part 3 of my Joni Mitchell series - Joni, the Jazz Years.

In 1976, Joni came out with Hejira, a big departure from her early folk work, (although a few songs do harken back to an earlier era.) My favorite song on the albums is "Amelia." Also check out "Coyote" and "Song for Sharon" if you're looking for the folk flourishes. With this albums, Joni really announces her intention to do legitimate jazz-influenced music, and though the style takes some adjusting at first, her stunning voice carries the new sound beautifully.

In 1977 came Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, a double album that displeased many fans. It's kind of a funky pastiche of jazz, rock, and world music that is not as focused as some of her other albums. That said, the lines "Anyone will tell you just how hard it is to make and keep a friend..." from "Jericho" give me chills every time.

In 1979, Joni got the opportunity to work with jazz legend Charles Mingus on what turned out to be his last studio album. Mingus, released under Joni's name, was a true collaboration between Joni and Mingus, accompanied by some of the greatest jazz musicians in the business at the time. The songs are accessible and pleasantly listenable, though I personally prefer the album as something more akin to background music, great if you're working on a creative project.

Shadows and Light, released in 1980 is a live double-disc album that nicely summarizes Joni's jazz period. It would be another eight years before she released a new album after this. Much like Miles of Aisles, this is a good album to start with as an overview of the artistic era.

Next week, I'll wrap up the Joni retrospective with Joni, the Modern Era.

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