Joni Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light,” showing off Pat Metheney, Don Alias, Lyle Mays, Jaco Pastorious, Micheal Brecker


Cover of the vinyl album and CD of

Cover of the vinyl album and CD of “Shadows and Light,” the album produced from Joni Mitchell’s 1980 tour of the same name. Wikipedia image

I think we have this DVD in our collection — surprised no one’s complained to have it taken down.

It’s wonderful.

Joni Mitchell at her jazzy best, voice in peak form (she always is). What’s so amaazing about this tour is the backup band. Don Alias performed percussion. Pat Metheney, the guitar wizard, accepted Joni’s invitation. Michael Brecker went along on saxophone. Brilliant young (then) keyboardist Lyle Mays played.  The sadly, doomed bassist Jaco Pastorious did some of his best work on the tour. Every musician seemed to be at the top of his or her form — and it shows, gloriously.

Go see. Then buy the CD and the DVD of the tour.

We won’t see a tour like this again, probably ever. Joni Mitchell’s health problems are well known. Jaco Pastorious died in 1987 after a descent into mental illness. (Son Kenny introduced us to the great Robert Trujillo-produced film “Jaco” last summer; another one worth watching and listening to.)

But we do have the performance from that one night in 1980, at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

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4 Responses to Joni Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light,” showing off Pat Metheney, Don Alias, Lyle Mays, Jaco Pastorious, Micheal Brecker

  1. bob plunkett says:

    I agree on the Shadows and Light album and tour, could not be any better

    Like

  2. Thanks for the information and insights! I was totally unaware until now of Mitchell’s “River”. Wonderful song!

    Like

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Joni Mitchell’s fans are superappreciative, including such people as Judy Collins, who covers Mitchell on several songs.

    But generally, yes, I think she’s not considered a great composer by those who compile lists of great composers, and she’s not considered a great singer by those who compile lists of great singers.

    Part of the issue is that Mitchell came out of Canada as folk-rock took off. When I first bought her albums they were in the folk section; later they moved to the “pop” section (go figure). Her later albums stayed in rock or pop, even as her love of Mingus and Jazz pushed her work solidly into jazz. I’ve never seen her work listed as jazz in any recording sales store.

    So she’s tough to categorize. Is she as strong or influential in folk as Joan Baez or Bob Dylan? Is she as strong in Rock as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (at least half of whom she had affairs with)? Is she as good at jazz as Ella or Tony Bennett? Is she as good a poet as Leonard Cohen?

    I think one can make a solid case that Joni Mitchell’s work is as poetic as Paul Simon’s, deserving as much attention for that reason as his. Simon won the Gershwin Award from the Kennedy Center; has Mitchell ever been considered? Is she less deserving than Billy Joel?

    One of my criteria: I think every party I attended as an undergraduate, someone put on the album “Blue.” In graduate school, in a hotter climate, Maria Muldaur made a run (time to get away when “Midnight at the Oasis” came on); but “Blue” has stayed a turntable hit for decades. When our oldest son was at the University of Dallas, on one visit I was struck that “Blue” played out of three different apartments in his complex, at least 40 years after its release. It’s not Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” but I think it lasts longer on the play list of people who play them both.

    In the past three years I’ve been impressed at the appearance of her song “River” on Christmas song compilations. “I wish I had a river I could skate away on,” she and her covering artists sing. She captured a feeling of Christmas much as Irving Berlin did, with a more beautiful melody, if not quite as hummable. Has anyone ever compared her to Irving Berlin?

    Long post required. I’m not musicologist enough to do it justice, I think.

    See these:

    “River” has become a movement!

    This one is odd; I wonder if someone did a mashup of Charlie Brown and Joni Mitchell, or if the Schulz cartoon organization really did use Mitchell’s tune.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve often heard that Mitchell has been under-appreciated as both a singer and a songwriter. Do you think there’s any truth to that, Ed?

    Like

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