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Joni's jazz can captivate audience, too   Print

by Jeff Shinn
Vancouver Sun
September 4, 1979

The Labor Day weekend came to a satisfying end Monday night as Joni Mitchell made her long-awaited return to Portland before a large crowd at the Memorial Coliseum.

With Brooklyn's "Kings of A Cappella," the Persuasions, opening things up, the evening got off to an off-beat, sometimes entertaining start.

The five-man vocal group doo-wopped through their 45-minute set, performing numbers from James Taylor to Hoagy Carmichael.

Although half the crowd seemed to be wondering if the group was somehow booked into the wrong building, many fans crowded near the stage and were handed the microphone to help out on a Gong Show-styled version of "Tom Dooley," of all things.

For her current tour, Ms. Mitchell has assembled an impressive group of jazz musicians, including Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorious, guitarist Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker on saxophone.

Probably assembled for their jazz reputations and the talent they would lend to Mitchell's newest all-jazz material from the album "Mingus," the band seemed at home with all styles covered during the show.

The collaboration between the late jazz giant, Charles Mingus and Ms. Mitchell has provided yet another musical avenue for the singer-songwriter to explore. Last night's show proved that even with the new jazz styled songs, the performer can captivate her audience.

Looking as elusive as ever, an electric guitar laden Mitchell glided into an upbeat version of "Big Yellow Taxi," for the show opener

Sticking mainly to familiar standards, Mitchell was at ease as she hit on a crowd favorite, "Free Man in Paris."

The sound system for the Labor Day show was excellent. Ms. Mitchell, always the perfectionist in the studio, demands the same for her live show.

Songs from Mitchell's "Mingus" album were mixed in during the second half of the show.

Both "The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines" and "God Must Be a Boogie Man" outshined the album versions. The rough edges found on the album cuts had been eliminated and in their place, guitarist Metheny and Don Alias on congas provided smooth backing rhythms.

Each member of Mitchell's troupe had a solo spot during the concert. Bassist Pastorious gave a unique solo as he accompanied himself - via feedback.

 

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