Jazz Joni, With Love and Gratitude

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 4.25.59 PMIt’s Joni Mitchell’s birthday. For many singers of a certain age, she is the mother of us all, and many of us have a case of Joni. Her songs to aging children [still] come, you know?  Joni goes way back as a jazz explorer, but the love goes both ways, and there’s been a river of jazz explorations of her songbook. Yes, there was that multiple-Grammy-winning  Herbie Hancock project, River: the Joni Letters, in 2007. But jazzers’ interest in the JM songbook started well before that, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Which got me to thinking it’d be cool if somebody compiled a list of jazz singers who’ve covered Joni Mitchell.  Thank you, Joni, for giving us so much greatness to work with, and showing us the way. Happy birthday!

Some notes before we get started:

• This list includes only performances released on CD. There’ve been notable concerts (Laurie Antonioli, whose Joni CD is in the works, Claire Martin and Ian Shaw), but this list is for released recordings only.
• There are many instrumental takes on Joni, but this list comprises only vocals by jazz singers
• All-Joni-albums come first, individual songs second (with one exception: Cassandra Wislon).
• Links on song titles lead to the recordings themselves. Links on album titles lead to artist website, album reviews, stores, videos, or whatever I could find that seemed relevant. For some reason some of the links aren’t highlighted, but hover over the titles; most are live linked whether it looks like it or not.
• The list does not include the oft-recorded “Twisted” because it wasn’t written by JM.
• Yes, I’m included in the list.
• If you want to see a far more comprehensive list of Joni covers in all genres, you must go to Joni Undercover, lovingly and exhaustively maintained by Bob Muller.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE OF ALL: All I want is to get the conversation started; I’m sure I’ve missed a lot that should be included (and I’m sure many of them are in my iPod, on my CD shelves, or simply stuck in my brain’s overloaded cache browser). It all comes down to you, dear reader, so please help me fill out the list by adding a comment (feel free to include links).


Leora Cashe and the Ross Taggart Trio:  Another Side Now  (Birth Records, 2008)

Ian Shaw: Drawn to All Things: Songs of Joni Mitchell (Linn Records, 2006)

Tierney Sutton: After Blue (BFM, 2013)
[Note: this album contains two tracks not written by JM]

Lydia Van Dam Group: Both Sides Now, A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (VIA Jazz)

Multiple Artists A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (Nonesuch, 2007)
Cassandra Wilson For The Roses 


Karrin Allyson
Blue Motel Room  (In Blue, Concord, 2002)
All I Want  (Wild For You, Concord, 2004)
Help Me   (Wild For You, Concord, 2004)

Dee Bell-Becker
Night in the City (Silva • Bell • Elation, Laser Records, 2014)

Cheryl Bentyne
Both Sides Now  (Songs of Our Time, King, 2008)

Fay Claassen
Be Cool (Fay Claassen Sing! WDR Big Band Cologne, Challenge, 2010)

Denise Donatelli
Be Cool  (What Lies Within, Savant, 2008)

Kate Hammett-Vaughan
Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire (Eclipse, MaximumJazz, 2004)
For the Roses (Eclipse, MaximumJazz, 2004)

Hilary Gardner
Chelsea Morning (The Great City, 2014)

Sarah Gazarek
The Circle Game (Yours, Native Language, 2005)
Carey (Return to You, Native Language Music, 2007)

Carla Helmbrecht
Song to a Seagull (One For My Baby, Heart Music, 1995)

Nicole Henry
Big Yellow Taxi (So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live, Banister Records, 2013)

Julie Kelly
Woodstock (Everything I Love, 2006)
Both Sides Now (Everything I Love, 2006)
River (I’m Gonna Lock  My Heart, Pausa Records, 1986)

Diana Krall
A Case of You (Live in Paris, Verve, 2002)
Black Crow (The Girl in the Other Room, Verve, 2004)

Claire Martin
Be Cool (The Waiting Game, Linn, 1996)
Blue Motel Room (with Ian Shaw) (Too Darn Hot, Linn, 2004)

Kate McGarry
Chelsea Morning  (Mercy Streets, Palmetto, 2005)
The Priest  (If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything, Palmetto, 2008)

Jane Monheit
A Case of You  (Come Dream With Me, Encoded  Music, 2001)

Mark Murphy
Barangrill  (Mark ll, Muse, 1974)
Both Sides Now (This Must Be Earth, Phoenix, 1969)

Dianne Reeves
River (Bridges, Blue Note, 1999)
Both Sides Now (Quiet After the Storm, Blue Note, 1995)

A Case of You (In My Prime, RhiannonMusic, 2005)

Abigail Riccards & Tony Romano
Both Sides Now  (Soft Rains Fall, 20ll)

Trelawny Rose
California (Shed a Little Light, Patois Records, 2013)

Janis Siegel
River (Short Stories, Atlantic, 1990)

Inga Swearingen
Black Crow (Reverie, Rhythome, 2005)

Christine Tobin
A Chair in the Sky (Yell of the Gazelle, Babel, 1996)

Roseanna Vitro
Be Cool (The Delirium Blues Project: Serve or Suffer, Half Note, 2008)

Cassandra Wilson
Black Crow  (Blue Light Til’ Dawn, Blue Note, 1993)

Andrea Wolper
Song to a Seagull (Parallel Lives, Jazzed Media, 2011)
Be Cool (Parallel Lives, Jazzed Media, 2011)


Time to Hit the Skyway. . .

If you haven’t read the previous entries, I suggest you start here and work your way up.

Truth is, I’ve traveled a fair amount and seen beautiful places. But, damn, Montana is something special! Even with smoke from wildfires obscuring some of the views, it’s just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. (Pictures below.)

Sunday morning, my hosts in Manhattan (west of Bozeman), Ann and Nick, took me to breakfast at a place that seemed so Montana, so untouched by time, that even I could tell when some “you’re not from around these parts, are you?” types walked in. After breakfast, we went to see the headwaters of the Missouri River, where the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers converge. The pictures in the slide show include the handiwork (or should I say teethiwork?) of some beavers who got discouraged when the water level dropped.

In the evening, we performed — Ann Tappan (pianist), Kelly Roberti (bass), and I at the beautiful home of Frank and Jirina Cikan in Bozeman. We had an enthusiastic audience and a lot of fun. After the concert, Ann, Nick and I went to the Pita Pit, the only place we could find that was still serving food after 10 pm; I mention this only because it was exactly the sort of place we’d end up eating after gigs during the years I was touring in Germany (well, there it’s the doner kebab joints), so it felt familiar, and right.

Back in New York, I’m reflecting on a memorable 10 days: volunteering at Project Vote Smart (PLEASE consider supporting the work of PVS with a donation), and then meeting up with Ann and Kelly in person (previously we’d only known one another online) and making music with them. I’m feeling very luck to have had this experience.

And now, more pictures: Vintage cars parked outside the 3 4Ks restaurant. People: Ann, Kelly, Nick, Jirina and Frank. Scenery at the headwaters of the Missouri. A few of the stunning sky taken from inside Ann’s car on the way to the gig.

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Cows, Guns, and the Continental Divide: Montana Diary.8

I’m thinking The Continental Divide might be a good name for a band. Or a novel.

I left Project Vote Smart this morning, a little sadly, though the spectacular drive between there and Butte made up for it. In addition to the stunning scenery, I saw some very good looking black cows; I’ve never seen entirely deep black cows before. Then something else I’ve never seen: a woman jogging, with a 9 millimeter tucked into her waistband (or are you supposed to write 9 mm?). Also: I didn’t identify it as a 9 millimeter (or 9 mm); I don’t know one gun from another, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: “Was that a GUN that jogger has?”
Rachel (the PVS staffer who drove me to Butte): “Yep. 9 mm. I’ve seen a wolf around here.”

After which there ensued an interesting conversation about guns, violence, cities, Montana, and several other things.

We got to Butte airport, and good thing I was prepared with the street address of the Budget Car Rental Office. [insert eyeroll.] The silver car in the foreground is my rental, and the peak-roofed building across the street is the terminal. The entire terminal. Two flights arrive and two leave each day. You can’t exactly miss the car rental counters. The nice young woman at the Avis counter saw me standing at Budget, walked out of Avis, and stepped behind the Budget counter. After taking care of my reservation she kindly pulled out a map and showed me how I could take a quick little car tour of historic Butte.

Butte certainly has an old West feel. Streets named Quartz, Gold, Iron, Platinum, Mercury, Granite, Porphyry, Copper, and so on. Victorian houses and mansions from the days of the mining boom. Here’s the former home of one of the area’s three “Copper Kings,” who tussled for control of the copper mining industry in the late 19th century.

The drive east, from Butte to Manhattan (Manhattan, Montana, that is) was just as gorgeous as the drive earlier. The population of the entire state is not quite a million people, meaning there’s a lot of undeveloped land and farmland. Lakes. Creeks. Hills. Mountain passes. It’s just beautiful. And I crossed the Continental Divide, the fact of which doesn’t really mean anything. But it’s nice to think, “Oh, right now I’m crossing this thing I’ve always heard about.”

Arrived in Manhattan a little after 2, and met Ann Tappan; later we drove to her studio in Bozeman to rehearse, with Kelly Roberti, for tomorrow’s concert.

Click here to continue to final Montana post ➸

Remembering Nina

Remembering the awe-inspiring artist, Nina Simone (nee Eunice Kathleen Waymon; February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003):

Scents Memory

It’s Let’s Blog Off! day, when participating bloggers write about a particular topic. Today’s subject is, “What Smell Takes You Back?” Now, this is something I can sink my teeth (or, er, my nose) into. See, it’s a subject that’s always fascinated me. How is it that a mere scent can stimulate a memory so powerfully that memory becomes feeling and feeling becomes–if only for a fleeting moment–reality? I’ve come to believe that time and space are a lot more malleable than our rational minds tell us they are. If you suddenly come upon a certain smell–let’s say it’s pancakes, and not not just any pancakes, but the very specific smell of the pancakes your grandfather made for you on your birthday, and suddenly the feeling of being right there in Grandpa’s kitchen is so strong that it feels as real as anything . . . well, who’s to say you weren’t actually there? I guess you could say I’m a bit obsessed with this idea, enough, anyway, that I wrote a song about it. Since I don’t have the sort of WordPress account that allows me to play the song for you here, I’ve decided to give the track away for free, just for today. My Valentine’s Day gift to you. You can download it here (scroll down a bit and look at the track listings on the left; you can also just listen to it if you prefer, and/or read the lyrics).

To find more of today’s Let’s Blog Off entries, click here.

Oh, The Stories I Could Tell . . .

Every two weeks the blogosphere comes to life when bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic. The topic this time is “If you can’t afford the tip you can’t afford the meal.”

Here are two not-actual but representative-of-actual ads I’ve seen on Craigslist:

Seeking band to entertain at publishing industry event to benefit a worthy cause. We’re looking for a jazz quartet to play from 7 – 10 pm on Friday at a beautiful SoHo venue. No pay, but great exposure to publishing and fashion industry types.

Your music at our restaurant, Friday nights, 6 – 11 pm. If you’re a solid band with a good following, let’s talk. No $$, but a receptive place for your music; you can pass the hat, and get dinner for up to a trio. Potential for longterm gig.

Hmmm. Let me ask you something, industry event throwers: Is the catering being donated? How about the invitations? The flowers? The venue? All being donated for exposure and the chance to contribute to a worthy cause? Nobody’s getting paid a cent for any work they do to make this happen? If that’s the case, then, okay, you have the right to ask musicians to work for free, too.

Restaurant owner or manager: before I help you build up your business by bringing in my band and my following, please come to my home and cook dinner for my friends and me. I have a stove and electricity (you supply the ingredients). No $$, but a great opportunity to share your talents with an appreciative group of hungry musicians. If the food’s really good, we’ll ask you to come back and do it again.

It seems hard to put a price on something as emotional, as ephemeral as music. But there are hard costs, just as there are with any product. The CD your kid is downloading for free because he knows where to find it online (and, after all, how’s it going to hurt Amazon or iTunes or Gaga or Jay-Z if they don’t get his $10 or $15?), well, that CD may have cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to make, and those thousands may have come out of the artists’ pockets. Granted, my own musical subgenre doesn’t include Gagas and Jay-Zs and overnight YouTube sensations, and that’s a-ok with me. For many of us, pop stardom isn’t remotely the goal. Me, I just want to make music I like and can feel proud of, and to earn a reasonable return for doing so. I’d like my friend who recently didn’t get paid for a gig, and had to pay the band out of her own pocket, to find the check in today’s mail. I’d love to think I might break even on what it costs to make a CD (and I’m only talking hard costs–not time, training, skill, and so on), though I know that’s unlikely.

Now, look, nobody’s forcing me or my friends and colleagues to make the kind of music we make. You are who you are, after all, and I’m sure I wouldn’t get very far as a pop star if that was something I wanted (I’m way too old now, but even when I wasn’t, that wasn’t my thing). But many of the musicians I know are people with masters degrees (and student loans), children, health problems, rent, mortgages. You know the type I’m talking about: regular people. Some of them just happen to be regular people with decades of experience and with incalculable amounts of time and money invested in the development of their art and craft. They’re people who create possibly somewhat esoteric but also possibly meaningful music. And while their music may be appreciated for giving joy, provoking thought, soothing savage breasts, it’s rarely understood as something having monetary value. Music, after all, is free. It floats on the air, on waves. You can’t hold it in your hand, put it on the mantle, hang it on the wall.

Well, it’s easy to take some things for granted, isn’t it? We all do it. I do it. I’m tuned in (no pun intended) to where that for-granted-taking happens in music because that’s the world I inhabit. I thought it might be interesting for non-musicians to have a peek at some of the adventures in Musicland. But that’s all this is, a peek. Oh, the stories I could tell you! But I won’t, not now. I’ll leave you with this request: some time today, or in the next few days, please put on some music you really like. And listen. Really listen. Embrace the music, and let it embrace you back.

(Apologies to other participants. . . as usual, I entered the code to show the list of bloggers, but all that shows is the code. My blog apparently doesn’t want to cooperate.)