If you're not familiar with Herbie's story, it goes a little something like this: He was considered a piano prodigy at age seven. At age eleven he played a piano solo in the first movement of a Mozart concerto with the Chicago Symphony. At twenty-one, Blue Note Records offered him a solo record deal. Two years later, he was asked by equally legendary Miles Davis to join his band, with which he remained for five years. And then his career really started getting interesting! Since then, his music has taken numerous twists and turns, trying new styles, innovating his own, integrating electronic instrumentation into jazz (a big no-no according to many purists), never resting on his laurels or settling into a predictable rut.
Joni Mitchell is an artist that is equally worthy of admiration and respect. Long before we had Canada to thank for Celine Dion, they were kind enough to send Joni to us. Discovered by David Crosby (of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) while playing folk music in a club in Florida, Joni's career took flight in the mid 60's. A decade later, she would being experimenting with tints of jazz in her work. As she entered her fifth decade making music, Joni found her self at odds with those selling it and bowed out of the scene for a while, until releasing Shine on September 25th, the same day that Herbie's album was released. There has been some criticism of it as offering nothing fresh or anything that compares to her time honored classics, but regardless of your critique one cannot question Joni's contribution to music during her long career.
As with any album of covers, there will be some who find the interpretations on River: The Joni Letters a fresh take on classic material and some who will consider them copies that have little to offer. That being said, I'll let you listen to the tracks below and form your own opinion. Some of the tracks on the album are piano driven sketches (such as Solitude, below), others offer lyrical substance by guests such as Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza, Leonard Cohen, (on the track The Jungle Line) as well as an appearance by Joni herself on one track.
Herbie Hancock - Solitude : River: The Joni Letters
Herbie Hancock - The Jungle Line (Feat. Leonard Cohen) : River: The Joni Letters
Miles Davis (with Herbie Hancock on piano) - Circle : Blue Miles
Joni Mitchell - Big Yellow Taxi : Shine