MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
The 2023 recipient of the famed Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is going to the great songwriter Joni Mitchell. Over the years, Mitchell’s artistry has transformed the American musical landscape, blending folk and jazz and influencing countless artists. In honor of this accolade, and on this first week in Women’s History Month, I’ll be paying tribute to Joni Mitchell and her songs, by hearing jazz interpretations of them, by artists like Tierney Sutton, Dianne Reeves, Janiece Jaffe, and more.
It’s The Joni Mitchell Jazz Songbook, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - SARA GAZAREK, “CAREY”
Jazz singer Sara Gazarek in 2007 with Joni Mitchell’s “Carey,” a track originally off of Mitchell’s celebrated 1971 album Blue.
MUSIC CLIP - FRANK SINATRA, “BOTH SIDES NOW”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re celebrating the songbook of the 2023 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song winner, Joni Mitchell.
MUSIC CLIP - FRANK SINATRA, “BOTH SIDES NOW”
What you’re hearing in the background right now is Frank Sinatra in 1968 performing Mitchell’s first big hit song, “Both Sides Now.” And believe it or not, this is one of the first instances of an artist with a foot in the jazz world interpreting the music of Joni Mitchell.
Sinatra’s version is not jazz, per se, but neither is “Both Sides Now.” The song grew out of the folk scene in the 1960s, of which Mitchell was a key player. Before she recorded any of her own songs herself, she gave these folk-inspired songs to others. “Both Sides Now” became her first hit when it was recorded by Judy Collins in 1968, which inspired the Frank Sinatra version, and the hundreds of subsequent versions after that—”Both Sides Now” is, in fact, Mitchell’s most covered song, according to the website Secondhand Songs.
Folk and pop versions of the song are the most common, especially given the song’s folk-pop origins. However, some jazz versions do exist. In fact, jazz singers over the years have been very keen on the music of Joni Mitchell, and it’s no surprise, given Mitchell’s own affinity for the genre. More on that later.
First up, here is a version of “Both Sides Now” from a jazz singer. This comes from a jazz singer who really began to push the boundaries of what might be considered the American Songbook in the 1990s, opening the door for songwriters like Joni Mitchell. This is Dianne Reeves from her 1995 album Quiet After The Storm with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DIANNE REEVES, “BOTH SIDES NOW”
Jazz singer Dianne Reeves in 1995 with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.”
Joni Mitchell’s most reinterpretted body of work is also her most celebrated: the landmark 1971 album Blue. In addition to being lauded as one of the greatest albums of the 20th century, Blue also contains songs that have been reimagined and remixed by hundreds of artists over the years, including many jazz artists. Singers like Madeleine Peyroux, Rufus Wainwright, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, and many others have recorded their own versions of songs from Blue. I’ll play two jazz covers for you now.
The first one comes from Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole, from an album she recorded in 1997 called Dark Dear Heart. This song is another one of Mitchell’s most famous, becoming known as a kind of Christmas-adjacent song.
Here is Holly Cole with Joni Mitchell’s “River,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - HOLLY COLE, “RIVER”
MUSIC - TIERNEY SUTTON, “BLUE”
Joni Mitchell’s song “Blue,” originally from her 1971 album Blue. That version comes from jazz singer Tierney Sutton and the Turtle Island Quartet off of her 2013 album After Blue, an album of all Joni Mitchell songs. We’ll feature another track from that album at the end of the hour. Before that, we heard Holly Cole in 1997 performing Joni Mitchell’s “River.”
As I mentioned earlier, Joni Mitchell is the recipient of the 2023 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. But this honor is not the only time that musicians have gathered to praise Mitchell’s songwriting gifts. In 2018, on the occasion of Mitchell’s 75th birthday, a live tribute concert took place in Los Angeles, later released as a live tribute album, with Mitchell’s songs being performed by a who’s who of popular music. This included her former musical collaborators James Taylor and Graham Nash, her songwriting disciples Brandie Carlisle and Emmylou Harris, and jazz singers like Diana Krall and Norah Jones.
Let’s hear that Norah Jones performance. This is Norah Jones live in L.A., performing the song that was the title track off of Mitchell’s 1974 album, “Court and Spark,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - NORAH JONES, “COURT AND SPARK”
Norah Jones live with Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark.” That comes from Mitchell’s 75th Birthday tribute concert from 2018.
MUSIC CLIP - MONTY ALEXANDER, “BIG YELLOW TAXI”
We’ll feature more jazz interpretations of the Joni Mitchell songbook in just a bit.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - BRAD MEHLDAU, “DON'T INTERRUPT THE SORROW”
MUSIC CLIP - LARRY GOLDINGS, “ALL I WANT”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been celebrating the songbook of Joni Mitchell this hour, the 2023 recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Starting the mid 1970s, Joni Mitchell’s music began to turn away from folk and more towards jazz. Mitchell had always been a jazz fan—she cited Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross as being an early influence on her, and even recorded a version of Annie Ross’s jazz vocalese song “Twisted” in 1974. She started working with several jazz musicians during this time, including the Jazz Crusaders, bassist Jaco Pastorious, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, composer Charles Mingus, and pianist Herbie Hancock.
Year later in 2007, Hancock paid tribute to Mitchell with his much celebrated album River: The Joni Mitchell, recording jazz versions of her songbook with artists like Wayne Shorter, Norah Jones, Tina Turner, and Mitchell herself. It was a hugely celebrated album, winning the Grammy Award for album of the year, beating out other critical favorites like Amy Winehouse, Kanye West, and the Foo Fighters.
Let’s hear a track from that album now. This song comes from Joni’s jazz-inspired 1976 album Hejira. This is Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and vocalist Luciana Souza with “Amelia,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - HERBIE HANCOCK, FEAT. LUCIANA SOUZA, “AMELIA”
Vocalist Luciana Souza with Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia.” That comes from the 2007 Grammy Award winning album River: The Joni Letters, by pianist Herbie Hancock.
Many artists have paid tribute to Joni Mitchell over the years with an album dedicated to her music, including as we’ve heard so far, Tierney Sutton and Herbie Hancock. But one recent Joni tribute album I’d like to feature now comes from a jazz artist who has left an indelible mark on the jazz community in my hometown, Bloomington, Indiana, singer Janiece Jaffe. Janiece was a fixture of the jazz scene in Bloomington for decades, blessed with a vibrant voice and a warm personality. Sadly, Janiece Jaffe passed away in November 2022 from complications after heart surgery, just months after recording an album of all Joni Mitchell songs with fellow local jazz pianist Monika Herzig. The album Both Sides of Joni was just released this year, and I’ll play a track from it now.
This is another song originally from Mitchell’s Blue, transformed here into a jazzy swinger by Janiece and Monika. Here is Janiece Jaffee and Monika Herzig with “My Old Man,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JANIECE JAFFE AND MONIKA HERZIG, “MY OLD MAN”
MUSIC - SOPHIE MILMAN, “BE COOL”
Singer Sophie Milman with “Be Cool,” a song written by Joni Mitchell in 1982 for her album Wild Things Run Fast. That comes from Milman’s 2009 album Take Love Easy. Before that, Bloomington’s own Janiece Jaffe and Monika Herzig, from their latest album Both Sides Of Joni.
I have one more song to play for you on this Joni Mitchell jazz tribute episode. This song comes from Mitchell’s jazz years in the late 1970s, where she began to collaborate with notable jazz musicians. This final song is a bop-inspired tune with lyrics by Mitchell and music by legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus, for Mitchell’s 1979 album Mingus. On this song, Joni is channeling a bit of the wordy, vocalese style of her idol Annie Ross, blending the boundaries between jazz and pop.
Here again is jazz singer Tierney Sutton from her 2013 album After Blue with the Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus tune “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - TIERNEY SUTTON, “DRY CLEANER FROM DES MOINES”
Tierney Sutton, from her 2013 Joni Mitchell tribute album After Blue, with the Joni Mitchell and Charles Mingus tune, “Dry Cleaners from Des Moines.”
Thanks for tuning in to this Joni Mitchell edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - HERBIE HANCOCK, “A CASE OF YOU”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow