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Holland Festival Tribute to Joni Mitchell Print-ready version

by Monica Cardinale
June 16, 1998

Recap by list-member Monica Cardinale

(From the Holland Festival program):

"Bob Dylan, Kiri te Kanawa, Frank Sinatra and the Indigo Girls are among the many artists who covered her songs. Yet Joni Mitchell never received the credit she deserves. Perhaps her musical career - which developed from folk, to jazz, to rock - is considered too capricious. In Mitchell's rich songs her high, angelic voice and the open chords of her guitar are constant factors. Mitchell also became famous as a writer of candid lyrics. The Holland Festival pays a tribute to Joni Mitchell, by presenting her music performed by a wide range of artists."

MONICA writes (the day before the event):
The artists who will perform at "Big Yellow Taxi: a tribute to Joni Mitchell" will be (among others): Corrie van Binsbergen and her band Corrie en de Kleine Brokken (she was one of the musicians - she plays the guitar - who participated at the discussion on Sunday afternoon. Her favourite Joni album is Hejira); Lotte van Dijck and Marjoleine Reitsma (two very young girls who performed a couple of Joni songs during the discussion. One even looked like Joni with her long blond hair. She played guitar and piano and sang, the other girl played the saxophone. They were introduced as people who initially didn't know Joni Mitchell and later discovered that they were "doing the same things"); the Tony Overwater Sextet; the Mondriaan Kwartet; Solex; Astrid Seriese.

MONICA writes (the day after the event):
BIG YELLOW TAXI: a Tribute to Joni Mitchell, was held Tuesday night (June 16) at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). As I reported earlier Dutch musicians would play all kinds of Joni songs. For those among you who really want to know *everything* pertaining to Joni, here is the setlist of this one night event (the programme has been made up by the American composer Gene Carl):

Astrid Seriese: River, The Sire of Sorrow (arr. P.J. Cramer), Woodstock.
Mondriaan Kwartet & Beatrice van der Poel: Marcie (arr. Corrie van Binsbergen).
Solex: Dreamland, Big Yellow Taxi/The Tenth World (You're so Square) Baby, I don't Care (arr. Liesbeth Esselink).
Mondriaan Kwartet: Hejira (arr. Gene Carl).
V (Tony Overwater Sextet): The Wolf that Lives in Lindsay, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Sweet Sucker Dance (arr. Tony Overwater).
Corrie en de Kleine Brokken: Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Blue/Let the Wind Carry Me, Night Ride Home (arr. Corrie van Binsbergen).
Mondriaan Kwartet: Cherokee Louise (arr. Tony Overwater).
Lotte van Dijck/Marjoleine Reitsma: Little Green, My Old Man (arr. Van Dijck/Reitsma).
Mitchell Band: Number One (arr. Gene Carl), Help Me (arr. Onno Krijn), Big Yellow Taxi (arr. Tony Overwater).

It has been a very varied night, with all kind of performers. Sometimes it was even difficult to recognize the songs. I liked Astrid Seriese's version of The Sire of Sorrow (she's a jazz singer). Beatrice van der Poel sang very beautifully (Marcie), accompanied by a string quartet. Solex played very loud. Not everyone liked the way in which Joni songs were sampled and rendered (very 90's). I really liked V, a jazz sextet with singer Fee Claassen. Beatrice van der Poel sang again, with her sister Vera, in the band Corrie en de Kleine Brokken. The youngest performers Lotte and Marjoleine (also known as Kirke) got a long and warm applause after playing Joni songs from Blue. Last year they won a singer-songwriters contest and people compared their style to Joni Mitchell's, which they didn't knew. They bought Blue and got into Joni. The Mitchell Band was an occasional band: all the artists - except for Astrid Seriese and Solex - performed together. It was really great: they sang a version of Big Yellow Taxi in various styles. Very funky and very special.

There have been some reviews of the concert in Dutch newspapers and as always critics seem to have different opinions. I think they all wonder how Joni would have experienced the evening herself. She was invited.

Trivia: 'world-famous' Dutch celebrities which have been spotted at the concert were ex happy hooker Xaviera Hollander and actress Renée Soutendijk.

Following are two reviews of the event that were published in the Dutch press. These were translated from Dutch to English by Monica.

All dogs free at Mitchell tribute
(By Pieter Steinz, NRC Handelsblad, June 17 1998)

The Holland Festival had to come closer to the youth. Therefore new director Ivo van Hove programmed a tribute to Joni Mitchell. This sounds more absurd than it actually is, because even if the 54 year old singer-songwriter's last hit (in Holland) was in 1970, her influence on modern pop music is strong: Prince, Janet Jackson and Tori Amos among others declared how much they owed to the Canadian singer, who innovated pop music with a combination of folk, jazz and rock'n'roll.

Especially jazz and quiet pop music were well represented at the tribute - named after Mitchell's greatest hit 'Big Yellow Taxi' - by Dutch musicians at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Programme-compiler Gene Carl selected a varied line-up - a classical ensemble, two jazzbands and a number of very different vocalists - of which the Mondriaan Kwartet, with wonderful instrumental adaptations of songs like 'Hejira' and 'Cherokee Louise' was the biggest surprise.

Mitchell herself was not there. She didn't have to witness that the auditorium was half empty, nor that Solex - a trio from the house-scene - snowed a medley of her songs under echos and loud electronic amplification. But she also missed a lot: an adaptation of the very sad 'River' which Astrid Seriese sang with a bedroom voice and expressive mimic; a brilliant performance - by the band "V" - of her ode to saxophonist Lester Young 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' (with singer Fee Claassen and Tony Overwater on big bass); and two songs from her masterpiece Blue, by Lotte van Dijck (vocals, guitar, piano) and Marjoleine Reitsma (saxophone). The eighteen year old Van Dijck provided moments of goose-flesh: in 'Little Green' and 'My Old Man' she not only came close to the timbre and phrasing of her example, but she even outshined her - except for one mistake at the beginning - in tonal purity.

Not all musicians stuck to the originals. Referring to a text by Mitchell, guitarist Corrie van Binsbergen announced that her occasional band De Kleine Brokken 'would set all dogs free.' What followed was, among other things, a version of 'Don Juan Reckless' Daughter' which could be described as a musical radio play, wherein Vera and Beatrice van der Poel alternated each other in their singing-speaking and once even burst into a cackling laugh.

De Kleine Brokken ended the evening together with "V", Van Dijck & Reitsma and the Mondriaan Kwartet, with a funky version of 'Big Yellow Taxi', and varied especially and appropriately the last verse of Mitchell's hit: 'You don't know what you've got till it's gone.' The tribute to Joni Mitchell shall not be repeated.

Singing weak link in tribute to Mitchell
(by Gert van Veen, De Volkskrant, June 18 1998)

Joni Mitchell should have been there, of course. The Holland Festival event 'Big Yellow Taxi', a tribute to the work of the American singer-songwriter, would then have been really complete. Mitchell was invited, but she had other obligations: finishing her new album, which will come out soon.

It's a pity, if only because it would have been nice to see how the singer and composer would judge for herself about the way in which six Dutch bands and artists performed her work. Would she have been delightedly surprised or deeply hurt? Maybe both, because the performances were very different, both in quality and in style.

Acoustic folk, chamber music, jazz, jazz-rock and electronic pop music alternated each other, and gave a completely different view of Mitchell's work.

The complex structure - in pop music anyhow - of her work, the unusual chords and the open tunings have the effect that her songs cannot but tickle the creativity of an arranger.

And you could hear this for example in the adaptation of Hejira (by Gene Carl) for the Mondriaan Kwartet, and the performances by "V" - Tony Overwater's jazzband - which played tracks from Mitchell's jazz album Mingus. Corrie en de Kleine Brokken also had their way with Mitchell-songs like Blue and Night Ride Home, which were performed in beautiful and appropriate new versions.

Less convincing in almost all the performances was the singing. Mitchell's music may lend itself for a free adaptation, but her voice is so individual, and interwoven with her songs in such a way that a cover is very easily wide of the mark.

To perfectly sing the complex, strangely fidgety melodies is an achievement already, but a number of vocalists did nothing more. Like Astrid Seriese, whose performance of songs like River and Woodstock was stiff and academic.

Fee Claassen also, surrounded by the excellent "V", presented a too solemn interpretation of Mitchell's work, which missed the light sonority of the original.

Singer Beatrice van der Poel, assisted by her sister Vera van der Poel in a couple of songs, tried to give something personal to Mitchell's songlines. It worked well in the soft passages and in the gliding vocal lines for two voices, but once she opened her throat, the songs got a rock-atmosphere which contrasted sharply with their intimacy.

The two extremes of the evening were actually most convincing: Solex and Kirke.

The last ones, because the duo, which last year won the singer-songwriter's contest of the "Grote Prijs" (Big Award), was able to let Mitchell sound like she must have sounded herself some 15-20 years ago.

Lotte van Dijck and Marjoleine Reitsma played two songs of Mitchell's album Blue, and Van Dijck not only appeared to have a voice which really resembles Mitchell's, but could also convey in a very convincing way the songs' moods.

Solex, singer-samplist Liesbeth Esselink's trio from Amsterdam, choosed the other way round, and altered songs like Big Yellow Taxi into typical Solex-songs: a flood of heavy samples and loops, wherein you could recognize the original only in the chorus.

Part of the audience put immediately fingers in their ears at hearing this noise, but Mitchell herself would undoubtedly have welcomed such a lack of respect.

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Added to Library on January 9, 2000. (9051)


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