Four distinctive ways to honor Joni Mitchell

Photo of Joni MitchellPlenty of artists claim to be influenced by Joni Mitchell, or to sound like her. But finding a thread that translates into something tangible can be hard. Instead, I decided to present a few of the more interesting approaches. These are truly creative endeavors. They stand out for their profound artistry and their tangible love for Joni’s music. Whether through reinventing specific songs or capturing the spirit of her style, these four albums offer first rate experiences. Each album honors Joni in a different way. So I invite you to immerse yourself in these four distinctive ways to honor Joni Mitchell. Continue reading →

Herbie Hancock: mind-blowing explorer of possibilities

Possibilities book coverHerbie Hancock recounts a story about playing onstage with Miles Davis in the 1960s. As Miles took a breath to start his trumpet solo, Herbie played a chord that was so wrong, “hanging out there like a piece of rotten fruit.” Miles paused for a moment, and then played a note that somehow made the chord sound right. That illuminating story speaks to many things: masterful musicianship, opening your mind to a new sound without being judgmental, the improvisatory spirit that is the soul of jazz, learning by making “mistakes.” Continue reading →

Music that almost didn’t make it to disc

3 AlbumsIn the consumerist, money-obsessed recording industry, artists have had to fight hard to record the music they love. Tori Amos detoured through the failure of the pop/big hair rock band Y Kant Tour Read because countless labels told her “that girl with the piano thing is dead.” Her successful solo debut, Little Earthquakes, was initially rejected by Atlantic Records (she was told she needed to replace all the pianos with guitars for it to be a viable record). She made some compromises on the final line-up of tracks, but held firm to her artistic vision for the music. Continue reading →

The genius of Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock and Head HuntersHerbie Hancock has been recording albums for more than three decades, exploring a variety of different directions in jazz while maintaining an interest in the interface between jazz and popular music styles. For me, his first great album was Inventions and Dimensions (1963). With its stripped-down arrangements of bass, piano and percussion, the responsibility is solely Herbie’s to keep the music dynamic and interesting, and he manages to do so by drawing on both 20th century classical music and jazz. In “Succotash,” for instance, he moves easily from percussive rhythmic figures in the manner of Bartok to virtuosic melodic riffs to impressionistic chord progressions in the manner of Debussy. Continue reading →