It had been years since Joni Mitchell took her music on tour with a band of her own. She had been seen with Bob Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue", and she had been an important part of "The Band's Last Waltz", but virtually her only communication with her own audience had been on four demanding, increasingly abstract, increasingly jazz-flavored albums: "The Hissing of Summer Lawns", "Hejira", "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter", and the new "Mingus".
But when she brought an all-star band to play with her this week at the Blossom Music Center, the outdoor summer home of the Cleveland Symphony, the crowd that came to see her was perhaps 14,000 strong.
"I respect my audiences very much these days for hanging in with me," she told me the morning after the show.
What she had just given them though, could not but reinforce their loyalty. She began with a hearty "Big Yellow Taxi", a sensuous "Court and Spark", and renditions of the "In France They Kiss On Main Street" and "Coyote" that were stronger, more insistent, more infectious, than on the original albums.
Jaco Pastorius from "Weather Report" was on bass; Don Alias was on drums and percussion; Pat Metheny and his principal collaborator Lyle Mays, played guitar and keyboards. Individually these men are among the best-known contemporary jazz musicians and session men. Together, with Joni Mitchell, they become, among other things, a very fine rock band.
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