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This review is from: River: The Joni Letters (Audio CD)
The line is drawn and this album has divided fans on both sides.
Hancock fans appalled; Mitchell fans outraged; the occasional satisfied inbetweenie.
Inevitable I guess. Not always a good idea to mess with mythology.
Someone always gets upset.
Ian Shaw took Ms Mitchell on in his 2006 release 'Drawn To All Things:
The Songs Of Joni Mitchell' and a very fine job he did too.
2007's 'A Tribute To Joni Mitchell' threw a motley ragbag of performers
into the fray with uneven results. Bjork, Prince and Annie Lennox to name
but three. Big risk. Good intentions. More travesty than tribute.
So to Mr Hancock's 2007 dance with The Diva - 'River : The Joni Letters'.
Herbie fans think it too soft, too pappy.
Joni's hardcore warrior army won't entertain anyone messing with the maid.
I'm a big admirer of both performers and I like it. In fact I really love it.
Hancock (piano), Shorter (saxes), Holland (bass), Colaiuta (drums), Loueke (guitar).
Now that's a pretty stellar line-up for starters. Mr Shorter, of course, having blessed
many of Ms Mitchell's finest compositions with his celestial breath.
The band plays like a dream. Co-production with Larry Klein is impeccable.
The individual vocal contributions are, truth be told, somewhat variable in quality.
I've always thought Norah Jones a little bland but she does her level best with opening
track 'Court and Spark' and does it no real harm.
Mr Hancock's reverential piano is here and throughout ethereally beautiful.
Tina Turner is a somewhat surreal choice but her take on 'Edith and The Kingpin'
is remarkably insightful and does not deserve the pasting given here by some listeners.
Ms Mitchell's own flirtations with the po-faced world of jazz
were, after all, also a bit hit and miss truth-be-told.
Corinne Bailey Rae's brave interpretation of 'River' is delightful.
Our Lady blesses the project with her magisterial presence on the sublime
'Tea Leaf Prophecy'. A canny reinvention and (surely?) an endorsement.
Luciana Souza is an inspired choice for 'Amelia' and Mr Shorter weaves his
mercurial magical threads in and around her warmly insightful performance.
Leonard Cohen : 'The Jungle Line'. If you don't get it you won't like it.
I consider it a masterstroke.
Elsewhere the instrumental 'interludes', especially 'Sweet Bird', display the
mind and hands of a true master still at the height of his powers.
Try not to be too put off by the strength of contradictory views and feelings expressed
within these pages and you may discover a work of true and honest beauty.
One question : For a man born in 1940 Mr Hancock is displaying very
few lines on his handsome brow. Just how are you doing that Herbie ?