Joni Mitchell - Shadows And Light (2004)
DVD-9 | Runtime: 74 min. | 4,64 GB | Copy: Untouched
Video: PAL, MPEG-2, 720 x 576 (1.333) at 25.000 fps | Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, LPCM-2 at 1 536 Kbps, 48.0 KHz
Genre: Jazz, Folk, Soul | Label: Warner Music Vision | Covers: Front
Joni Mitchell’s Shadows and Light is a doubly terrific treat for music lovers. For her fans, of course, it’s a legendary 1979 concert showcasing the singer/songwriter in full artistic glory. And for modern jazz lovers, it marks the chance to see a band of musicians that can be called nothing less than a supergroup.
I have to admit, I fell into the latter category. Not that I didn’t like Joni Mitchell, per se…more that she just flew under my radar. I was familiar with a few of her songs, and had seen my share of vintage performance footage of the smoky-voiced folk singer who mesmerized crowds with six strings and two vocal chords. But when I saw that this title was coming out, I knew I had to have it anyway. She wasn’t the main attraction for me. It was her band.
Pat Metheny on the guitar, Lyle Mays on the keys, Don Alias on the drums, and Michael Brecker on the sax is the kind of group that could headline themselves instead of just being a superstar’s backup band. And that’s without mentioning the best treat of all: Jaco Pastorius on bass, in what could possibly be the only commercially available film of his live playing (at least I haven’t found anything else yet).
It’s a dream band, but Ms. Mitchell is no slouch as leader. Her jazzy, breezy tunes are well crafted, suited to her voice, and made into rich audio experiences by her boys. She’s no slouch on the guitar herself, and her rhythms provide the foundation while Pat, Jaco, Lyle, Michael and Don build wondrous arrangements around it.
Starting with “In France They Kiss on Main Street”, the music is instantly warm and vibrant, and soon the songlist soars through tunes that are restrained like “Edith and the Kingpin”, energetic like “Coyote” or “Free Man in Paris”, or enchanting like “Black Crow”. The disc also features a pair of her lyrical arrangements for classic Charles Mingus tunes, including the slinky “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and one of my favorites, the funny revved-up “Dry Cleaner From Des Moines”.
The show’s true song highlight is just that…a piece Joni performs alone to her own guitar, “Amelia”. With wistful lyrics and a haunting melody, this is about as good as the craft of songwriting can get.
But her band gets showcases of their own…the lovely “Amelia” fades into a colorful, soaring magic carpet ride of a solo by Pat Metheny with Lyle Mays playing underneath. When he wants to, nobody plays the electric guitar as beautifully as Pat. Jaco gets his turn in the spotlight too, breaking out with a thunderous rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun” by creating layers of sound with his digital delay before tearing into an overdriven assault of machine gun harmonics that might leave most aspiring bassists in tears.
For the last two numbers, Joni sings a cappella with The Persuasions. “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” is charming, but I’m not sure she has quite the right voice for doo-wop. The finale is sadly a bit of a drag. “Shadows and Light” goes on for a bit too long, and is a let down energy-wise from the music that preceded it.
Still, the concert is a wonderful listen. It would have earned a higher film rating except for one thing: the constant interruption of ridiculous filmed footage that frequently runs in place of the band performing. Starting with a clip or two from the 50s like Chuck Berry and Rebel Without a Cause, it continues on through many of the songs. It’s a rather annoying waste. When I buy a concert video, I want to see singers singing and musicians playing…call me kooky.
As director, Joni Mitchell gets the blame. I guess she thought she was being artistic, but her strange and intrusive visions actually took a little something away from the magic she and her band was creating on the stage.
That quibble aside, Shadows and Light is still an indelible concert experience. Joni fronts a supergroup of modern jazz legends and makes plenty of enchantment…all music fans are likely to appreciate it.
This review is dedicated to the late, great Jaco Pastorius, who left a void nearly 15 years ago in the music world that still hasn’t been filled.
- Jaco Pastorius
- Pat Metheny
- Don Alias
- Lyle Mays
- Michael Brecker
01. In France They Kiss On Main Street
02. Edith And The King Pin
04. Free Man In Paris
05. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
06. Jaco's Solo/The High and Mighty/Third Stone From The Sun
07. Dry Cleaner From Des Moines
09. Pat's Solo
11. Black Crow
12. Furry Sings The Blues
13. Raised on Robbery
14. Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
15. Shadows and Light
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