A red sun came rolling down a grey sky
Art by Kirsti Ottem Langeland
Wedged between the masterpiece of ‘Hejira’ and her dive head first into the world of ‘Mingus’ came this continued exploration and experiment with theme, harmonics, rhythm, and lyricism. It didn’t hurt that she had a wizard accompany her into this double album by the name of Jaco Pastorius. He along with the other musicians helped propel and translate the genius coming through Joni Mitchell’s ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’, which remains one of her favorite albums for me. Listen to this 1st track (with headphones if you can, to hear all of the richness of her harmonies and the dancing bass of Pastorius) as it lays the groundwork for one of the themes of this 2 record set. It is as if swirling spirits hovering over the earth come crashing down and begin to play in some funky little town. (Perhaps a jazzy percussive version of the colder ‘Wings of Desire‘, Wim Wenders meditation story of an angel who falls in love with a circus performer)
Joni turns 70 this year and back on June 18 and 19 at the Luminato Festival, a tribute concert was held in her honor. She had not performed in public for quite some time due to illness. It was announced she would appear and read a poem set to music, accompanied by Herbie Hancock, but she surprised the audience by performing a couple of songs. Her illness has greatly reduced her vocal range and it must have been quite a courageous step for her to give it a go. As you can see in the clip below, she crosses her fingers as the 1st song begins but she pulls it off. Acknowledging the difficulty she was having early on, the audience’s enthusiastic cheer seemed to energize her. To me it is magic to see her up there still phrasing like the accomplished artist she still is, with lyrics that read like poetry (Pawn shops glitter like gold tooth caps in the grey decay). Reaching the 70 year mark in this life is still an accomplishment as one begins the apprenticeship for the great departure, as David Whyte puts it, but to me, though diminished by age and illness, the spark that comes through Joni is still there, still vibrant, still distinctly hers.