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David Lahm: More Jazz Takes on Joni Mitchell

Pianist David Lahm has renewed his love affair with Joni Mitchell’s music, arranging seven more of her songs as what he calls “mainstream jazz.” Lahm’s previous Mitchell disc drew on a pool of 18 musicians, so while the results were often erratic there was a sprinkling of good solos to enjoy. On More Jazz Takes, Lahm has reduced the number of players to six and the result is a less interesting, less varied set.

Randy Brecker is again present and his flugelhorn, in dialogue with Vincent Herring’s melodious flute on “The Silky Veils of Ardor,” which provides the disc’s only enchanting interlude. Much of the rest is mildly pleasant though hardly exciting, and a few pieces-“In France They Kiss on Main Street,” “Black Crow”-made me wince, chiefly because I thought Roger Rosenberg’s sax solos brusquely phrased and ugly of tone.

Lahm also includes four of his own compositions. Unfortunately, they bear no comparison to Mitchell’s inventive pieces: Lahm’s music, as he says himself, “can be pretty conservative.” That conservatism extends to his arrangements, which in many cases rechannel Mitchell’s strikingly individual compositions into a tame mainstream jazz that does her work no favors. Mitchell’s own discs have featured a stellar array of jazz players, including Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, Larry Carlton, Bud Shank, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker. The music she makes with them may not fit into Lahm’s narrow “mainstream” bag but it’s definitely more creative and characterful than the “jazz takes” on this CD.

Originally Published