All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Extended Analysis

16

Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: the Music of Joni Mitchell

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Bay Area vocalist Laurie Antonioli has been performing and recording for more than 30 years. Early on she mixed paints with the likes of Joe Henderson, Mark Murphy and Pony Poindexter with whom she undertook an 8-month European junket in 1980, quickening her already impressive jazz chops. Antonioli's discography is a slim yet intense affair that is full of brilliant pathos and musicianship. She has had much time pass between releases resulting in a sonic career where her evolution as an artist is experienced in fits and starts. That was, until the release of American Dreams (Intrinsic Music, 2010) when she assembled her most empathetic and clicking band. That recording focused on the logos of Americana. Superbly arranged and recorded, American Dreams presented the vocalist outside of the standards realm looking into a complicated culture while adding a few surprises of her own.

Antonioli, with her American Dreams orchestra fully intact return for a smartly conceived and displayed project on Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: the Music of Joni Mitchell. Mitchell's music is no mystery to jazz or jazz musicians. Mitchell made two landmark jazz records, back by members of Weather Report in Mingus (Asylum, 1979) and Shadows and Light (Asylum, 1980). Mitchell's music has been the subject of jazz vocals projects in the past, but none with the clarity and intention displayed in Antonioli's efforts here. Antonioli and her fine band have quickened in the last four years into a limber and exacting jazz ensemble. Their sound is greater than that expected from a quintet, mostly because of Jason Lewis' expansive post-bop drumming and John Schifflett's solid, driving bass. This rhythm section holds down the edges, allowing the soloists to ply their trades.

Antonioli's interpretations tend toward the impressionistic and ranging from the dramatically hewn "People's Parties" (from Court and Spark (Asylum. 1973)), featuring Theo Bleckmann's wordless vocals to the deeply grooved figures populating For the Roses' "Barangrill." Sheldon Brown's bass clarinet provides a dark coffee bottom to the intricate and durable arrangement, fast paced and insistent. Antonioli's singing is hip and swinging. "Eastern Rain" is given an inventive Eastern treatment accented by Lewis' expertly played percussion and Brown's snake-charmer slippery clarinet.

Antonioli makes generous use of the band member's arranging abilities. Guitarist Dave Mac Nab adds his impressive abilities and crying slide guitar to "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire," "River," and "California." "River" has become a popular song of the holidays and Antonioli turns it on its ear. Pianist Matt Clark infuses a faint "Jingle Bells" in the brief pastoral introduction. The song begins with a simple figure and Antonioli's soulfulness with that of the band as Brown's tart soul tenor solos over Clark's B-3 and Mac Nab's carefully constructed Muscle Shoals guitar riffs. The song is transmuted it into a delicate gospel- soul ballad that downshifts into a self-propelling momentum. These touches are not overt, they exist in the song like a fragrance...here the band and singer approach perfection.

Blue (Reprise, 1971) gives up "California" and Antonioli and crew stretch out on the recording's penultimate song, one that makes use of all the forces brought to bear. As good as Mac Nab's slide guitar is, it is Antonioli who fully shines like a diamond. Hers is a voice that is perfectly seasoned by the material. Antonioli makes no secret of Mitchell's musical magic in her own life, but never does she fall into mere imitation. Antonioli catches Mitchell's phrases and phrasing as if from thin air, exhaling them as warm, autumnal bursts of memory. I will not hear a better recording this year.

Track Listing: People's Parties; Rainy Night House; Barangrill; Eastern Rain; Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire; Both Sides Now; Hissing of Summer Lawns; Woman of Heart and Mind; This Flight Tonight; River; I Don't Know Where I Stand; California; Marcie.

Personnel: Laurie Antonioli: vocals; Matt Clark: - piano, Hammond B-3 and Fender Rhodes; Dave Mac Nab: guitar; John Shifflett: bass; Jason Lewis: drums; Sheldon Brown: bass clarinet, clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones; Theo Bleckmann: vocals (1).

Title: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: the Music of Joni Mitchell | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Origin Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Where Flamingo Fly/Black is the Color

Where Flamingo Fly/Black is the Color

Laurie Antonioli
Foreign Affair

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Take Five With...
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Varuna

Varuna

Origin Records
2015

buy
Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: the Music of Joni Mitchell

Songs of Shadow,...

Origin Records
2014

buy
American Dreams

American Dreams

Intrinsic Music
2010

buy

Related Articles

Read Greatest Other People's Hits Extended Analysis
Greatest Other People's Hits
by Doug Collette
Published: September 9, 2018
Read Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 Extended Analysis
Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967
by Doug Collette
Published: September 8, 2018
Read Naima/Live in Berlin Extended Analysis
Naima/Live in Berlin
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 30, 2018
Read Kaya 40 Extended Analysis
Kaya 40
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 25, 2018
Read Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis
Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: August 4, 2018
Read Wodgi Extended Analysis
Wodgi
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 4, 2018
Read "In Memory of Lou Gare" Extended Analysis In Memory of Lou Gare
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 3, 2018
Read "GRANITE" Extended Analysis GRANITE
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 2, 2018
Read "Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981" Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read "Wodgi" Extended Analysis Wodgi
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 4, 2018
Read "The Vintage Years 1970 - 1991" Extended Analysis The Vintage Years 1970 - 1991
by John Kelman
Published: June 23, 2018
Read "Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" Extended Analysis Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: August 4, 2018