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Records We Love: ‘Shadows and Light’ by Joni Mitchell Print-ready version

by Nicole D'Amato
Oregon Public Broadcasting
May 3, 2024

Hosts from KMHD dig into their collections, pull out a gem and tell us why the album is essential.

It makes a lot of sense that Joni Mitchell's musical career eventually shifted towards jazz. Mitchell started as one of the most important folk trailblazers of her time. She paved new roads and solidified her genius early on with inventive open-tuning guitar playing meant to mimic human emotion, melodic vocal phrasing and a storytelling quality of songwriting ladled heavily with themes of her own introspection. Always an evolving artist, Joni's music transpired in the direction of what moved and inspired her. Jazz had always remained at the forefront of her musical journey and her 1974 release, "Court and Spark," started to reflect that.

The sound of jazz only intensified in the albums that followed. She surrounded herself and her music with personnel peppered by the likes of Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter and Joe Sample. In 1978, Charles Mingus reached out about collaborating on six songs he had written for her. Together, they created "Mingus" which ultimately was the last music project he made before his death in 1979.

By the time "Shadows and Light" was released, Joni had learned and developed a stronger sense of how elements of jazz combined seamlessly with her own unique musical interpretations. The album was recorded live in September of 1979 at the Santa Barbara Bowl with a celebrated cast of incredible players packing the stage including Pastorius on bass, Pat Metheny on lead guitar, Michael Brecker on saxophone, Don Alias on the drums, Lyle Mays on the keyboards and Mitchell's voice at the helm.

Every song on this album is a miracle, but notable tracks include "Edith and the Kingpin", "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines," "Amelia" featuring a soaring solo by Pat Metheny that soars in an exquisite version of "Hejira." Also notable is an extra jazzy version of "Free Man in Paris" thanks to Michael Brecker, and finally the definitive last scene with "Shadows and Light."

"Shadows and Light," is a live, audible scenic tour that defines jazz without boundaries. It is a captivating example of what can be accomplished when creative expression through music refuses to adhere to limits of genre, strives and remains to be untamable, and celebrates the trials and joys of the human experience. A true reflection of jazz ... and Joni.

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Added to Library on May 5, 2024. (1038)

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