Joni Mitchell – Shadows & Light (Live 1979)

15th April 2022 · 1970s, 1979, Jazz, Music, Singer-songwriter

Joni Mitchell at the peak of her powers with a crack team of jazz musicians, performing live on her Mingus tour in California in 1979.

I never really got along with Joni the hippie ingenue who made Blue. But I adored the jazzy Joni who made The Hissing Of Summer Lawns and Hejira.

That’s where I discovered her. And I saw her perform once, at a festival in Japan 25 years ago, where she would waft by backstage from time to time but, sadly, never stopped to socialise.

Now, inspired by her moving return to the spotlight at last week’s Grammys, I’ve discovered this concert from her Mingus tour late in 1979 at the Santa Barbara County Bowl.

It’s transcendent: you can just close your eyes and drift away to Southern California, basking in the breeze of those Santa Ana winds while tuning in to these master musicians at the peak of their powers.

It includes several of my favourites – Coyote, Edith And The Kingpin, In France They Kiss On Main Street – impeccably performed with a supporting cast of superstars including Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker.

It’s just spellbinding; even the bass solo, which is normally a plunge too far into jazzery for my tastes but gets a pass here because it’s Jaco Pastorius. And because he works Hendrix’s Third Stone From The Sun into it.

It’s sad to learn that of the musicians onstage here – the others are drummer Don Alias and Lyle Mays on Keyboards – only Metheny and Mitchell herself are still with us.

But she’s very much with us, despite an aneurysm in 2015, and made a rare public appearance at the Grammys to pick up Best Historical Album for Volume 1 of her Archive collection, and another award as Person of the Year.

This year or, I’d venture to suggest, pretty much any other year.