Coming after the keen disappointments of her two previous jazz albums, Hejira and Mingus, Joni Mitchell's new double-disc concert album, Shadows and Light, arrives as a surprising vindication of her one-woman project. Bravely departing from her folk persona after the huge success of Court and Spark, Mitchell recreated her music in the mid-'70s. She brought good ideas to the jazz studio albums but cramped her space for execution and came off sounding stingy, cold and dilettantish. On this album she opens up the songs to two top soloists, Mike Brecker (saxes) and Pat Metheny (guitar), and a flying rhythm section of Jaco Pastorius and Don Alias. At first one admires the life of the players but then one realizes just how beautiful the music Mitchell has been writing really is and how well her lyrics and her voice suit the jazz idiom. Few women have been able to escape the dilemma of being either a folkie madonna or tough rocker. With Shadows and Light none has soared so high above the whole problem as Joni Mitchell.BART TESTA
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