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"Tonight, there's a concert in NYC's Central Park called 'Joni's Jazz.' Well, it's more than a concert, it's a cultural event. Singers and musicians will be performing songs written by Joni, including a complete performance of the album Hejira! This should be quite special!"
Patrick Leader, the official JM.COM reporter for the show, filed the first story below, and additional messages sent to Wally follow.
by Patrick Leader, reporting for JoniMitchell.com
In his excellent opening speech, producer Danny Kapilian said the oldest inspiration for this concert was his first time seeing Joni, almost exactly twenty years ago in Forest Hills, Queens, on a hot steamy, rainy day much like today, in which the weather obeyed the gods of music, like tonight. It was the Shadows and Light band.
He was aiming for that power with this concert. He said, 'The hair on the back of your neck is going to curl' and he was not exaggerating. This was an amazing, magical evening, for us as well as for Joni, who was there, but more on that later. Here's the setlist:
Trouble Child - Toshi Reagon
Jungle Line - Carl Hancock Rux and Dean Bowman
People's Parties - Jane Siberry
Same Situation - Ravi Coltrane
Edith and the Kingpin/Jericho - Christina Wheeler
Free Man in Paris Rap based on I's a-muggin' -PM Dawn (and Mood Swings)
Don't Interrupt the Sorrow - Chaka Khan
Just Like this Train -Eric Andersen
Down to You (with part of A Case of You and Unchained Melody in the middle) - Joe Jackson and Joy Askew
God Must Be a Boogieman - Erin Hamilton
Court and Spark - Duncan Sheik
Hissing of Summer Lawns - Chaka Khan
Raised on Robbery - Sheryl Marshall
Shadows and Light - John Kelly
Second Set - Hejira in its entirety:
Coyote - Joy Askew
Amelia - John Kelly (with Don Byron and Doug Weiselman)
Furry Sings the Blues - Eric Andersen
Strange Boy - Jane Siberry (Matthew Garrison, Bass)
Hejira - Chaka Khan
Song for Sharon -PM Dawn
Black Crow - Toshi Reagon
Blue Motel Room - Erin Hamilton (Graham Haynes, Cornet)
Refuge of the Roads - Duncan Sheik
Twisted/Jumpin'at the Woodside - Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross
A very improvisational Help Me - Joni and everyone else
The magical aspect began when we saw Joni in the backstage area, before the show. She was obviously in a good mood and very excited. As the time approached, the musicians were in a group hug circle and after a minute or so, Joni joined them. That had to have felt great, for them.
As we finally settled, Joni was escorted to her seat, dead center a couple of rows back. Standing ovation, of course. This was not a box seat, it was a muddy playfield with folding chairs and bleachers, wind and sprinkles and there she was right in the midst of us. Danny Kapilian made his excellent opening speech, dedicating the show to Bill Graham and Jaco Pastorius.
Toshi Reagon sang Trouble Child to open, and I can't imagine a stronger beginning. She's a passionate and powerful singer and the onstage musicians delighted in matching her. Carl Hancock Rux and Dean Bowman's version of Jungle Line showed off the percussion section.
After a sweet take on Jericho sung by back-up singer Christina Wheeler, the next highlight for me was Don't Interrupt the Sorrow, sung by a force of nature named Chaka. She spoke a bit first, with obvious love for Joni, saying she advises young singers "Go buy Joni Mitchell's Hejira. Play that. You harmonize with that shit." It was funny and honoring.
Your reporter was dancing his ass off at the front of the audience during the song, and I could look over and see Joni just rocking in her seat. Lisa Durfee, who sat behind her, said she was bopping along any time there was a beat, all night. Joni jumped out of her chair at the end of Chaka's song, along with the rest of the audience.
A little further along, it was just Joy Askew with Joe Jackson at the piano, for Down to You. In the break was the first verse of A Case of You and even a piano-only verse of Unchained Melody. Then Joy sang the last verse of Down to You. Erin Hamilton (Carol Burnett's daughter and a phenomenal torch singer who I'd love to hear more from) sang God Must Be a Boogieman. Chaka came out with Hissing of Summer Lawns. And John Kelly (not in Joni-Costume) closed out the first act with his amazing Shadows and Light
The second act was Hejira, from beginning to end. Danny Kapilian announced the artists for each song at the beginning of the act, in the hope that it would actually flow, somewhat like the album.
Joy Askew took Coyote and ran with it, this was one of my single finest moments of the concert. I could feel the crowd going, "who is this woman?". John Kelly's beautifully sung Amelia was enhanced by Don Byron on a buzzy bass clarinet trading lines with Doug Weiselman on soprano clarinet (if I've got the instruments right.) Weiselman was an exciting and excellent musician all night. Eric Andersen's Dylan-esque Furry Sings the Blues was just right.
Jane Siberry was a perfect choice to sing Strange Boy, and she gave an edge-of-your-seat performance that highlighted Matthew Garrison's complex bass. Garrison was also excellent all evening. Then Chaka with Hejira, just electrifying, PM Dawn's sweet voice on Song for Sharon, and Toshi Reagon tearing down the house on Black Crow. She even got Chaka to come out of the wings and trade vocal licks.
Another of my highlights was next. When Danny had announced Erin Hamilton for Blue Motel Room, I'd thought a perfect match of song and singer, and it was. Her languid singing, perfectly matched by Graham Haynes on cornet and Brian Charette (I think) on piano set a spell. Duncan Sheik closed out on Refuge of the Roads.
As Danny introduced John Hendricks and Annie Ross for the encore, Joni was being led backstage so we had that 6 inches apart face to face smile moment, but when she got backstage she reversed and came back out into our little corner of the crowd so she could see them, so I spent all of their set choosing whether to watch Joni, five feet away on one side dancing and swinging a cigarette, and a couple of legends 15 feet away on stage. Hendricks and Ross were wonderful.
Finally they got Joni on stage. She spoke briefly, saying what an unusual experience it was having her work come at her like that. "I'll remember this night all my long, long, long life," she said, giggling. Finally, she put her gum on the mike stand and joined the whole band for a song that somewhat resembled Help Me.
And four hours after it started, a magical show ended.
From "Joni's Jazz" creator Danny Kapilian:
An unbelievable night in every way. Your reporter was accurate. The rains stopped only minutes before showtime, pushing me to chainsmoke so intensely I'm sure I was keeping pace with Joni herself. Absolutely everything not only went according to the original vision, but far exceeded it. The very fact that the show ended up being played TO Joni was beyond anything I could have imagined. And the gig was, with the quirks inherent in a huge, complex live gig, flawless. I've never been so high from a successful project before, and I can't imagine topping this, but I will. I wish you'd been there. Thanks for all of your support. I hope all of the JMDL'ers had the night of their lives.
From band member and arranger Jerome Harris:
Wally: Here's some small addenda re: Patrick Leader's excellent report (and your site's other notes) on last Thursday's "Joni's Jazz" concert in Manhattan's Central Park :
--Several artists and bandmembers originally slated to perform couldn't make it. Cellist Jane Scarpantoni and percussionist Don Alias each had serious work conflicts; Holly Cole was to have sung "Raised On Robbery" and "Blue Motel Room", but developed laryngitis; also, stormy weather interfered with her flights from Canada for rehearsal (backing vocalist Sheryl Wheeler took on "Raised On Robbery"; Erin Hamilton filled in on "Blue Motel Room".
--The little wind instrument Doug Weiselman played on "Amelia" (and on "Furry Sings The Blues", if I remember correctly) is known as an "Eb clarinet" (pitched a perfect fourth higher than the standard Bb clarinet), not "soprano clarinet".
--a few personal observations. I'll mention the on-and-off heavy rain all that afternoon, which created an emotional roller-coaster ride for performers and crew after all the hard preparatory work ("will we play today or go to the rain-date? Will we have a crowd?"); the presence of an ample, enthusiastic, umbrella-equipped audience was heartening. There were some amusingly irrelevant introductory remarks from New York City's Parks Commissioner, and it being Canada Day) some wittier comments from Canada's Consul-General.
Finally, from my perspective as guitarist and preparer of most of the written music for the rhythm section, the feeling of electricity onstage was palpable throughout the entire concert, as the uniqueness and scope of the event unfurled (and the riskiness--due to the production's many logistical and scheduling challenges, we never had actually run the entire show! It was dress rehearsal, debut and final performance all at once). When else would we get to delve so deeply into such a chunk of Joni's work? When else would we work with such a wide variety of artists (Chaka Khan, Eric Anderson, Jane Siberry sharing the same stage, singing one artist's material)? When else would any of us get to play (in several senses) *for* Joni Mitchell? As a song not performed that night says, "Impossible...impossible dreamer"; sometimes the impossible occurs.
Much, much praise and thanks to the featured artists, my bandmates, and to musical director Vernon Reid and producer Danny Kapilian for envisioning, conceiving and manifesting this event--and, of course, to Joni Mitchell, bringer of music "of heart and mind" that dwells at the core of so many of us.
From Chris D:
Hey Wally, it's me again. The concert was a mixed bag. My hair did curl, but for different reasons (Jane Siberry). It really had a homeboy 'street' kind of feel to it. Toshi Reagon was unbelievable, as was Chaka (more on her later). I was right up front and Joni was in view the whole time; just a member of the audience. The band was great. ; But all this pales to what happened after. I waited by the stage exit (this was all outdoors) to see if I could say Hi when she left. I started talking to the guard and after about 20 minutes he said I could go back if I wanted to. I said Huh! He said oh sure. So, I did. There was obviously a party going on. The first people I saw were Duncan Sheik and Chaka. I slid onto a corner picnic table and looked around. Joni was up on a sort of porch (there were two trailers for the buildings) sitting at a table under an awning with some people (the everpresent ciggy). I waited, had a beer and people began to leave. After awhile it was only about 15 people and the crew. I looked over and Joni was sitting there all alone; could you imagine. Allright, now or never. I got up walked over and introduced myself. I mentioned the website and she said Oh yeah have a seat. AHHHHHH! Well the deal is I sat with her for the next hour and just talked and talked. She mentioned the site and I said you said hello (I'm sure you don't mind) and she genuinely wanted to know how you are doing. We talked about how great the site is; she obviously is very appreciative. I then brought up the fact that I heard she is going to be a grandmother again. She gave me this look and half screamed it happened! Apparently that day. No wonder she was in such a good mood. I talked about some of her lyrics; got into a discussion about Picasso, had some munchies, then Chaka came by and sat down across from me and said Joni lets go, I found a great club (she's an original and the one who really did justice to the songs). Well I walked her out to the car, (just the two of us) gave her a hug and said goodbye. The thing is, is that even when we were walking out she was only focused on me (or so it seems in my overloaded mind). She never let the conversation go dead. She was interested in everything I said and I was interested in everything she said. It really was like sitting down with an old friend. She even remembered we had met outside David Letterman last year and had had a conversation. Oh well, I'm still absorbing the whole thing (was I dreaming?). Arghh! I think not. Just wanted to let you know. I hope your feeling okay. Be well. Chris D.
A Tribute to Joni's '70's "Jazz" Period. Featuring Chaka Khan,
Joy Askew, Erin Hamilton, Toshi Reagon, Carl Hancock Rux, Dean Bowman,
Jane Siberry, Ravi Coltrane, Christina Wheeler, PM Dawn. Eric Anderson, Joe Jackson,
Duncan Sheik, Sheryl Marshall, John Kelly, Matthew Garrison,
Graham Haynes, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross.
I've been smiling all morning and all I could write in my journal on the
subway is thank you. I'm not even sure who to be thanking, but I do feel
full of thanks for SummerStage, for all the artists who shared joy and
respect for Jonis music, and of course Joni herself.
Although the show itself was an excellent musical celebration, can I
replay for you the final half hour of the concert? Joni was sitting in
the third rowI sat in the bleachers for the first part and then came down
to stand by the stage for the Hejira performance. The standouts were
Toshi Reagon, John Kelly and Chaka Khan's sizzling version of Hejira but I
watched Joni most of all, seeing her smile and laugh and clap for the
singers. She looked peaceful and happy. Towards the end of Duncan Sheiks
Refuge she walked by us and stood behind the fence near the stage stairs.
I was about 6-8 feet away (oh yes, the quintessential fan-speak; but its
true!) and just stood overwhelmed as she grooved to Annie Ross and chatted
easily with some nearby fans.
When she took the stage, it was as a gracious gesture; we could all tell
that she had no desire to sing (she laughed off Help Me, saying I dont
know the words but I do remember she let go with one amazing full-throated
not like we love our freedom) and especially no desire to upstage the
previous musicians. So to accept our praise and give us those ten or
twenty minutes meant so much to me.
She spoke of being honored and how much she loves New York, and then with
smiles and flowers and a wave (and her gum left stuck to the mike stand),
she left the stage. What a gift for me personally (how good to know there
exists this artist who fills me up), but for all of us in the Big Apple,
who are facing the dreams malfunction
She makes that fight all the more worthwhile
joni mitchell never lied! peace 7/1/99
1) "Trouble Child" - Toshi Reagon
2) "Jungle Line" - Carl Hancock Rux and Dean Bowman
3) "People's Parties" - Jane Siberry
4) "Same Situation" - Ravi Coltrane
5) "Edith and the Kingpin" - Christina Wheeler
6) "Jericho" - Christina Wheeler
7) "Free Man in Paris" (rap based on I's A-Muggin') - PM Dawn and Mood Swings
8) "Don't Interrupt The Sorrow" - Chaka Khan
9) "Just Like This Train" - Eric Anderson
10) "Down To You" - Joe Jackson and Joy Askew
11) "God Must Be A Boogieman" - Erin Hamilton
12) "Court and Spark" - Duncan Sheik
13) "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" - Chaka Khan
14) "Raised on Robbery" - Sheryl Marshall
15) "Shadows and Light" - John Kelly
-- Intermission --
Hejira in its entirety:
16) "Coyote" - Joy Askew
17) "Amelia" - John Kelly with Don Byron and Doug Weiselman
18) "Furry Sings The Blues" - Eric Anderson
19) "Strange Boy" - Jane Siberry with Matthew Garrison
20) "Song For Sharon" - PM Dawn
21) "Black Crow" - Toshi Reagon
22) "Blue Motel Room" - Erin Hamilton with Graham Haynes
23) "Refuge of the Roads" - Duncan Sheik
-- First Encore --
24) "Twisted" - Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross
25) "Woodside" - Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross
-- Second Encore --
26) "Help Me" - Everyone including Joni
>I was about 6-8 feet away
well, we must have been right next to each other, we were right by the fence
at that side of the stage! indeed a special moment in a special night. my
top three songs were:
chaka khan singing don't interrupt the sorrow
joy askew singing coyote
erin hamilton singing blue motel room
**Note** I'm at work writing this, and don't have time to put this together
in a well thought out way, but here's a few snippits . . .
Well Folks, last night was an awesome celebration of Joni Mitchell's music.
Joni's Jazz was a brilliant concert that featured various artists covering
Joni's work from Court & Spark to Mingus. Yes, the divine Miss M was in
attendance, and she sat two rows away from me! She came on stage at the
end of the concert for the encore, but did not sing a solo. Instead, all
of the artists were on stage singing "Free Man in Paris" and they coaxed
Joni to take over, but she declined and said "I don't remember the words,
and anyway this was already done tonight" Then she said "Can I sing an
old standard?" The audience roared in approval. But she never did, which
was a huge disappointment. Instead all the singers on stage stopped
singing Free Man, and the band kept playing and everyone on stage and in
the audience waited to see what Joni would do. Joni just improvised to
the music - no words, just beautiful sounds emanating from her mouth. I
so wanted to hear her voice, and only her voice sing, anything - even if it
was "Happy Birthday" it would have blown me away. But she didn't.
A big disappointment for a hungry soul.
The first half of the concert were selections from Mingus, Court and Spark,
and The Hissing of Summer Lawns. And the second of half of the concert
"Hejira" was performed in its entirety (just to make all of us JMDL'ers so
Chaka Kahn was a part of the event and everytime she came on stage she
completely brought the house down. She credited Joni as being her
"mentor", and it was clear that she loves Joni tremendously, and loves
singing Joni's work. Here is a list of the guest artists that performed:
Eric Andersen, Dean Bowman, Erin Hamilton (A fine, fine singer who has the
perfect vocal ability to do justice to Joni's jazz songs), Jon Hendricks
and Annie Ross (they performed Twisted and totally rocked) Joe Jackson,
John Kelly, Chaka Khan, P.M. Dawn, Toshi Reagon (another powerhouse
singer), Carl Hancock Rux, Duncan Sheik, and Jane Siberry (who didn't know
many of the lyrics she performed).
When Joni arrived to take her seat at the start of the concert, she
received a standing ovation from the audience members. I was in awe of her
presence. She was so close, yet so far, as there was no way for me to get
to speak to her.
Some performers came on stage and voiced their praises to Joni, and one of
the rappers said: "Joni Mitchell never lies" as a lyric in one of the
songs he performed. How great is that?
I have to give special credit to P.M. Dawn who performed "Song For Sharon."
He has such a beautiful voice, and I thought his version of the song was
completely moving and he reminded me of Seal in the way his voice could be
so delicate and emotional.
John Kelly did a rendition of Amelia that was cool because the way he
performed the song made it seem that he was relating an event from his own
There's so much more, but no time . . . I'll try to write more later.
Bye for now.
Lisa reported it so well, along with everyone else we got to see and meet.
It was an incredible evening. My only personal report was that I was able
to glide past security 2 1/2 hours before the show because I had ny denim
JMDL shirt on and sat right up front to see the rehearsal. That was worth
the trip alone. And then we had great seats for the whole evening, right
behind Joni all night. She had a great time, cheering and hooting all
night long. Can you imagine hearing 2 great hours of her music and then
having Danny say (Hi Danny I was sitting up close on the aisle while you
were working) "We'll break now and then return with the entire Hejira
album." I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. It was well worth the trip.
It was one night in a million for any Joni fan. Kudos to Danny for all his
hard work. Now who was doing the recording?????
Emily wrote: "and her gum left stuck to the mike stand, she left the stage."
Yes, her chewing gum.
From my seat, 9 rows back and one seat over from SIQUOMB, I had a pretty good
line of sight when she was looking left, toward center stage.
During the course of her stay in the audience, she has a cup of beer, a can of
Coke, innumerable cigarettes, and I was as surprised as anyone to see her
chewing gum. I didn't see her blowing any bubbles, though. :-)
Terry asked "About how many people were in the audience??"
I would estimate the crowd at between 500 and 800
I just joined the list today after seeing the Central Park concert last
night. I've been a big Joni fan since my father played some of her early
music (Both Sides Now) for me when I was not much more than a toddler.
My first experience seeing her in concert was sometime in the mid-70s, I
think shortly after Miles of Aisles came out. Hejira is my all time
favorite album by anyone in any genre. I wore out a couple of vinyl
copies before the CD format came out.
I was so excited when I first heard about the Central Park concert,
especially since Hejira was going to be such a prominent part of it.
What a wonderful evening it was!! The only let down for me was Jane
Siberry's performance, since I'm also a big fan of hers. Her web site
had listed for a while the two songs that she would be performing. Why
couldn't she learn the lyrics?
I think I agree with the rest of you about the highlights of the
concert. It kept getting better and better as the evening went on. Toshi
Reagon, Joy Askew (esp. with Joe Jackson), Chaka Kahn and Erin Hamilton
were all great. My friends have been raving about Joy Askew for a while,
now I see why. I initially thought that PM Dawn was a strange choice to
sing Song for Sharon, since it's so much from a woman's point of view,
but it was a gorgeous rendition.
I wonder if any sort of CD will grow out of this project, even if it's a
studio recording rather than a tape of last night's show.
Anyway, it's nice to meet all of you. I was trying to keep a set list,
but I lost my pen half way through the first set. I found your Joni mail
list while trying to find if there were any place on the internet where
I could get a set list. Thanks to those of you who took complete notes.
welcome! from another new yorker. i am still glowing about last night.
The only let down for me was Jane
Siberry's performance, since I'm also a big fan of hers. Her web site
had listed for a while the two songs that she would be performing. Why
couldn't she learn the lyrics?
a bunch of us listers hung out after the concert and jane was a major
subject of discussion between barbara burst, lisa durfee and i, who are all
major jane fans. people's parties was indeed disappointing and brought down
the level a bit, but i thought she did a much better job with strange boy,
especially feeding off that magnificent bass player. her particular sense
of theater in singing is just so right for that song. one thing she and
several performers did (and this didn't hurt the energy at all) is sing a
line and then say 'can you believe how good that line is?' jane's moment
but we agreed that jane is a bit nervous as a performer, more last night
than usual. and she does have trouble with lyrics. i wrote a report for
www.jonimitchell.com which i also forwarded to this list, and i cleverly
described her performance as edge-of-your-seat, not saying whether that
meant 'astounding' or 'is she gonna fuck it up' (or both). her own
performances have been walking that same line and i think she is creating
brilliance by throwing it all out there.
i did have a few other disappointed moments in the concert, but nothing that
kept it from being an incredibly exciting night.
Valerie again: My friends have been raving about Joy Askew for a while
i've been raving about joy for a long time, since chris kornmann, a
jonilistlurker announced a local date way last summer. she gives an amazing
show, and if she plays in ny again this summer you must see her.
...I would just like to describe a little bit about Joni's Jazz, if I
may. Since I had my place in line at about 5:45 p.m., (gates were to open at
6:30) I basically had my choice of seats. Naturally, I sat smack dab in the
middle of the first row! Incidentally, it was the row that Joni was escorted
through during the intermission. There was only about a foot of room, so as
she squeezed by me, I said, "Hi Joni!" She was so warm and did pause to shake
my hand, as she graciously did with the other "first row-ers". In a very
bubbly voice she said, "We're having such a great time here tonight, huh?
We're sure keeping the rain at bay!" What a moment for me. She is such a
The entire night was completely indescribable. It certainly had the hair on
the back of my neck raised for the entire evening, just as it was intended.
There is not enough room for me to give the proper and deserved praise to all
of the many great talents on that stage. I would simply have to say that the
evening was just magical...when it was over I walked up fifth avenue toward my
bus like a deer caught in the headlights. I was just glazed over and goofy
looking, but contented and satisfied in the deepest part of my heart.