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David Lahm: Jazz Takes on Joni Mitchell

In a reverent and adventurous tribute to one of our greatest modern songwriters, pianist David Lahm presents Jazz Takes on Joni Mitchell (Arkadia 71011; 62:04). In sometimes startlingly original deconstructionist mode, Lahm captures the musical and emotional complexity of a range of Mitchell pieces. He turns “Shadows and Light” inside out, holding a gospel-styled awe in organ work and the audacious alto sax work of Thomas Chapin, while working a tricky rhythmic mix underneath as the groove opens wide. “Solid Love” swings in Kansas City style with Lew Tabakin’s hard-bopping tenor sax, William Galison’s smoking harmonica, and Lahm’s own rag-edged piano forming a cool, swaggering vibe. Lahm’s supporting cast lives up to some formidable challenges here-from Randy Brecker’s crying melancholy flugelhorn offering a dark interpretation of Mitchell’s painful lyrics on “Edith and the Kingpin,” to Ed Neumeister’s burlesquely growling trombone on the abstract drama “The Fiddle and the Drum.” Rarely does an instrumental adaptation of a pop tome capture emotion as squarely as Lahm and company’s read of “Blue Motel Room,” a beautiful rendition of Mitchell’s lonely, lovely blues. The potent combination of Tabakin and Galison once again cuts straight to the heart, with Mike LeDonne’s purring organ lending just the right bittersweet romantic touch.

Originally Published