Lynn Skinner Sings the Jazz in Joni in Denver, CO

Geoff Anderson By

Sign in to view read count
Lynn Skinner Sings Joni Mitchell
Dazzle Jazz Club
Denver, Colorado
November 8, 2007, First Set

Lynn Skinner singing Joni Mitchell songs seems to be a natural combination. Both artists revel in eclecticism. Among their inspirational sources, jazz is a significant touchstone. And both have clear, almost delicate voices. Last night at Dazzle, Skinner performed Joni Mitchell songs both well known and more obscure and paid tribute to one of North America's most influential genre-crossing artists in both song and spoken word.

Skinner started the evening with a monologue about Mitchell and her music. It was a fitting introduction: since the evening's program was all Joni, it made sense to talk about her. The Joni disquisition continued throughout the set with Skinner assigning readings to her band mates between songs. These provided additional insight into Mitchell and her music and included observations and kudos from people like Herbie Hancock. Pianist Bob Schlesinger told the story behind the song Carey—something about Joni living in a cave in Crete. Skinner shared her own realization, after many listenings to "Little Green," that the song is actually about Mitchell's daughter, whom she gave up for adoption and later located some 20 years after writing the song.

Joni Mitchell's songs provide fertile ground for harvesting new and innovative jazz arrangements and propagating bountiful solos. The band's arrangements of the familiar tunes were decidedly jazz-tinged, and it was revelatory to hear those old chestnuts in a new light. Skinner's voice, while similar to Mitchell's in some respects, is different in one big way: her range goes far beyond anything Mitchell has put on record, enabling Skinner's to insert an extra dimension into her interpretation of the songs.

"Big Yellow Taxi" was a highlight with a hard-swinging arrangement. "Edith and the Kingpin" was another effective interpretation, sounding a little like mid-70s Steely Dan. Most of the material was from Mitchell's most popular period in the 1970s. The exceptions were "Dawntreader" from her first album, "Song to a Seagull" from 1968 and "Be Cool" from 1982's Wild Things Run Fast. Finally, Skinner created her own song for Mitchell in honor of the latter's 64th birthday just the preceding day (11/7). Using the Beatles' "When I'm 64," she substituted her own lyrics paying respect to Mitchell.

The band was solid, with Bob Rebholz especially impressive on reeds, alternating between soprano sax and another instrument (unfamiliar to this reviewer) that looked like the progeny of the coupling of a clarinet and R2D2. The device had the size and shape of a clarinet, but its machine-like features were definitely androidian. The biggest difference between the instrument and its robotic progenitor was the sound it made in the hands of Rebholz. Rather than R2D2's buzzes, bloops and whirls, this instrument added grace and depth to the arrangements, at times practically channeling some of Mitchell's own past collaborators such as Tom Scott and Wayne Shorter.

It looks like Joni Mitchell has essentially given up touring (even if some of us haven't given up hope of one). Thus, it's especially important, not to mention satisfying, to have someone of Skinner's caliber keeping the spirit and flame alive.

Personnel: Lynn Skinner, vocals; Bob Schlesinger, piano; Ron Bland, acoustic and electric bass; Larry Thompson, drums; Bob Rebholz, reeds.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read WOMAD 2017 Live Reviews WOMAD 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Punkt Festival 2017 Live Reviews Punkt Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: September 17, 2017
Read Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium Live Reviews Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: September 16, 2017
Read 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival Live Reviews 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 15, 2017
Read Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre Live Reviews Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 15, 2017
Read 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden Live Reviews 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "The Power Quintet at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews The Power Quintet at Jazz Standard
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 5, 2016
Read "Charles Lloyd Quartet at Vicar Street" Live Reviews Charles Lloyd Quartet at Vicar Street
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "The Seth Yacovone Blues Trio At Red Square" Live Reviews The Seth Yacovone Blues Trio At Red Square
by Doug Collette
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: June 18, 2017
Read "Stick Men at Havana" Live Reviews Stick Men at Havana
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 25, 2017
Read "Belgrade Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Belgrade Jazz Festival 2016
by Thomas Conrad
Published: November 11, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.