A musical tribute to the jazz side of iconic singer-composer-musician Joni Mitchell is scheduled at Newtown’s Edmond Town Hall on September 8th at 8pm. The group will be playing music from Mitchell’s critically-acclaimed jazz-influenced albums including Court & Spark, Hejira, and The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
The virtuoso seven-member group includes four Newtown natives: Leslie Ballard (vocals, flute), bassist Steve Zerlin (Kenny Loggins), Matt Spencer (percussion), and drummer Roger Post (James Taylor, Chuck Berry). The group also features Christian Martirano on keyboards, Steve Moran (Tommy Dorsey Orchestra) on sax, and Hudson Valley guitar star Tony DePaolo (Spyro Gyra, Larry Carlton).
A celebrated folk-rock star, Ms. Mitchell had brilliant collaborations with such jazz giants as bassists Charles Mingus and Jaco Pastorius, guitarist Pat Metheny, and saxophonist Michael Brecker. They produced numerous acclaimed albums and songs, like “Coyote.”
Newtown vocalist Ms. Ballard was inspired by Ms. Mitchell’s recent health issues to create this tribute. Ms. Ballard is a former opera singer and NYC recording studio manager (Paul McCartney, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah). Her Newtown band Panacea has performed for the healing Sandy Hook Reunion concerts.
“Joni Mitchell’s JAZZ” debuted this spring at Pizzeria Lauretano’s Jazz series in Bethel. It sold out days ahead and appeared on Joni Mitchell’s official website. A packed audience was treated to an evening of Joni’s hits and lesser known songs, played by a talented group of musicians with a passion for the project.
Mitchell, one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Times,” is known for her folk-rock hits from the ’60s and ’70s like “Both Sides Now” (a number-one hit for Judy Collins) and “Woodstock” (made famous by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). Her album “Blue” was just named NPR’s Top 150 Albums by Women.
In March 2015, Mitchell was found unconscious in her LA home, having suffered a traumatic brain aneurysm. After months of hospitalization she continues to recover slowly, but with limited mobility and speech. While millions of fans wait for better news, the event has brought renewed attention and airplay to her award-winning song catalog.
A video greeting card for Mitchell is planned at the performance. Audience members are invited to participate in a video greeting card for Ms. Mitchell during intermission. A videographer will record personal comments and anecdotes about Joni Mitchell’s songs, as well as personal messages for her.
With introductions and brief narration given for each of the songs, the evening is a celebration of Joni’s brilliant collaborations. Each of the members of the Joni Mitchell Jazz tribute have a deep respect and love of her music, and the challenges of her sophisticated arrangements.
The group’s previous Joni Mitchell Jazz tributes have sold out, so advance tickets are strongly suggested. Tickets can be purchased at the Edmond Town Hall box office during box office hours (weekdays 9 am – 2:30 pm, 203-270-4285) or online at JoniJazz.brownpapertickets.com.
More about the musicians:
Leslie Ballard (vocals, flute) started performing at age 15, with Joni Mitchell an early influence. She sang soprano with New York’s Amato Opera and the Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, and for nearly 20 years managed NYC recording studios with such clients as Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Cindy Lauper, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, and Phil Ramone.
Tony DePaolo (guitar) is a Hudson Valley guitar legend who has worked with Larry Carlton, Spyro Gyra, Stanley Jordan, and Steve Morse.
Steve Zerlin (bass) is an accomplished bassist who has toured internationally with Kenny Loggins, Jack DeJohnette, the Coasters, the Drifters, the Platters, and the Marvelettes, and taught extensively in India.
Christian Martirano (keyboards), is a synthesizer designer for Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues and many others. He is well known in the area from popular ’80s bands (Voices, Atlantic Recs, Emily) as well as Broadway.
Steve Moran (sax, clarinet) was the lead tenor saxophonist in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and a faculty member at Fairfield University and Greens Farms Academy.
Roger Post (drums) is a heavily working local jazz and rock drummer who has played for Chuck Berry, James Taylor, Judy Collins, and Bill Conti (Rocky composer), and in original Broadway productions of 42nd Street, Cats, Falsettos, and revivals of Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Godspell.
Matt Spencer (percussion) is a recent WCSU Jazz performance graduate who has been playing drums and percussion for 17 years and performs with a variety of different groups ranging from funk, reggae, hip hop, jazz, and soul genres.