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Jazz Takes On Joni Mitchell by David Lahm

I was gratified but not surprised, that some of her songs began to overlap in my mind with certain well-defined approaches to jazz. Arranger David Lahm, who often works with singers, fits jazz charts to Joni in a way that sings. Not surprising, really; only in the degree that it works.

The material comes from several albums; her more jazz-inspired efforts, like Mingus, are passed over for earlier tunes. "Solid Love" takes the fadeout riff and runs with it: a backwoods harmonica jamming with Kansas City horns. The blues is there, and old-school tenor from Lew Tabackin. (The alternate drops harp, and there Tabackin runs wild.) "Song for Sharon" is a plane passing through clouds - different images pass, and many textures. (I especially like the violin.) The star is Dave Friedman, playing one of Joni's choruses. (Lahm's instruction was "Nail this"; it is sufficient.) "Edith" is a slow mode, an aching horn in an enormous room. The brushes plead softly, and the weeps of Randy Brecker grow ever stronger. Much different from the original, it's jazz and it's Joni too. It's hard to want more.

Check into the "Blue Motel": the lounge is almost empty and the band is starting to cook. On the gentlest organ Tabackin growls some sweetness; beside him the harp, with a drawl of its own. The blues won't end, and you don't mind a bit. The "Blonde in the Bleachers" waves to you - a glossy background, and Thomas Chapin rises up breathless. He sounds Japanese, overblows a little, then coos with the utmost purity. He's placid while the background grows turbulent; an intriguing mix. "Fiddle and the Drum" takes the "All About Rosie" theme and charges tough, rustic grace amid the thundering drums. After the battle Ed Neumeister cries with all the power of Tricky Sam. And "Shadows", starting in church, is Chapin chiming to a pipe organ. Across the street there's a B-3, and a grainy alto, squealing in tenor range. Each side has its merits; both have plenty of soul. A nice swan song for Chapin, and a new way of looking at these songs. And they're looking pretty good.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Lahm
  • CD Title: Jazz Takes On Joni Mitchell
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 1999
  • Record Label: Arkadia Jazz
  • Rating: Five Stars
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