The Joni Mitchell Tribute: Both Sides Now
7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at First Presbyterian Church, 171 Market St. 859-252-1919.
It was this time last year when a team of local artists teamed together for an evening long tribute to the music of Leonard Cohen. The program — a stylistically rich and far reaching overview of the late Canadian songsmith — was such an audience hit the event’s producers decided to reprise it last spring.
The same organizers behind the Cohen tributes will present a follow-up event of sorts Friday night at First Presbyterian Church. Their artist of idolization this time is another Canadian, Joni Mitchell, whose brand of Laurel Canyon folk-pop became a decisive voice of a generation beginning in the late 1960s but would evolve and expand into adventurous jazz territory as the ’70s progressed.
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Friday night’s program, formally titled “The Joni Mitchell Tribute: Both Sides Now,” will cover much of that musical terrain, from folk-friendly works off of her 1967 debut album “Song to a Seagull” through her audacious 1980 collaboration with jazz composer and bassist Charles Mingus (aptly titled “Mingus”) to celebrated later recordings like 1994’s “Turbulent Indigo.”
The lineup of rosters will include Doc Feldman and Cntry Alt Del, Jim Gleason, Kevin Holm-Hudson, The JoAnna James Trio, Nevi’im, The North Americans, One Lane Bridge, The Partisans, Julia Purcell, Mandy Ray, Beth Scherfee, Melissa Snow-Groves, Sarah Smitha and Starlings Curve. James, one of the artists who also performed at the Cohen tributes, recently moved to Colorado, but is flying back to Lexington to take part in Friday’s program.
If you’re planning on attending “Both Sides Now,” here are a few things to keep in mind.
▪ All 450 available tickets for the event, although free, have been dispensed. Those attending should be seated by 7:15 Friday night. After that, patrons without tickets will be allowed to fill any unclaimed seats.
▪ While this will be a free performance, Friday’s concert is also being presented as part of First Presbyterian Church’s Music for Mission series. Donations will be collected for the Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
▪ Give yourself plenty of travel time. There will also be basketball action at Rupp Arena Friday’s with the University of Kentucky taking on Southern Illinois. That means parking downtown will be at a premium.
“Both Sides Now” comes to us in conjunction with performance tributes honoring Mitchell’s 75 th birthday (which is Nov. 7) in New York City, London, Dublin, Toronto and a two-night all-star benefit in Los Angeles featuring Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Los Lobos, James Taylor, Rufus Wainwright and others.
A personal reflection, if I may: The one and only time I saw Mitchell in performance was 20 years ago this fall at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. She was co-billed with Bob Dylan, who, ironically, performs a sold out show at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond on Sunday. Americana/roots rocker Dave Alvin opened the concert.
Beginning with a solo version of “Big Yellow Taxi,” Mitchell quickly involved an all star band — trumpeter Chris Botti, bassist Larry Klein, pedal steel guitarist Greg Liesz and drummer Brian Blade — in a set highlighted by a trio of startlingly atmospheric works from her 1976 album “Hejira” (“Black Crow,” “Amelia” and the record’s title tune). That preceded a very vocal admonishment of patrons near the front of the stage she felt were distracting from her set.
“If you don’t want to listen, then get out of here until Bobby comes on,” she told them. “You’re ruining my performance.”
▪ The University of Kentucky’s Singletary Center for the Arts, 405, Rose St., hosts a two-night program entitled “The Saxophone Summit: Celebrating 30 Years of Saxophone at UK” next week. The first evening features a free Nov. 13 performance by the UK Sax Quartets (7:30 p.m.). The big saxes comes out swinging on Nov. 14 when current Dave Matthews Band horn man Jeff Coffin and BEATBoX SAX solo artist Derek Brown perform with the Osland/Dailey Jazztet and the UK Mega Sax 1 ensemble (7:30 p.m.; free in advance to UK students, $15 public). Call 859-257-4929 or or go to finearts.uky.edu/singletary-center .
▪ The UK International Guitar Series gets underway Friday’s (Nov. 9) at Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, 180 E. Maxwell St. with an evening of Bach music for lute as performed by the acclaimed lutenist and musicolgost Nigel North (7:30 p.m.; free to UK students, $10 for non UK students, $15 public). In reviewing a 2015 reissue of his “Go From My Window” album, Gramophone magazine said, “North has always been a clean and nimble technician whose expressivity, once minimal, has been growing for some time. Here it enters a new dimension.”