Laurie Antonioli Covers Joni Mitchell on New Origin CD 'Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light'

Laurie Antonioli Covers Joni Mitchell on New Origin CD 'Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light'

Vocalist Laurie Antonioli delivers the most personal and soul-baring statement of her esteemed career with the release, on August 19, of "Songs of Shadow, of Light: The Music of Joni Mitchell." The CD, her first for the Origin label, finds the acclaimed Bay Area jazz singer returning with obvious passion and inspiration to her earliest musical influence.

"Joni's music is such a part of me, it's like a second skin," says Antonioli. "So is jazz, of course, but this goes even deeper. It's where I started. It's both a personal and a generational thing."

Repertoire is largely drawn from early-period Mitchell, including "Marcie" from Mitchell's 1968 debut album "Song to a Seagull" and the obscure "Eastern Rain," recorded by Fairport Convention in 1969 but never by the composer herself. Antonioli puts her stamp on some of Joni's less frequently covered songs, such as "Woman of Heart and Mind," "Hissing of Summer Lawns," "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire," and "People's Parties," on which Theo Bleckmann contributes the background-vocal choir effects.

Also included is "Both Sides Now," Joni's most recorded song. For that reason, Antonioli wasn't sure about tackling it, but "each day, at the end of the session, [pianist] Matt [Clark] and I did one or two takes to see if we could get something. We didn't rehearse or even talk about it, other than to agree we wanted to find a different approach to it. The song evolved into a haunting jazz ballad."

Clark and the other members of Laurie's band of eight years' standing-guitarist Dave MacNab, bassist John Shifflett, drummer Jason Lewis, and reed player Sheldon Brown-are her full collaborators on this project, handling arrangements as well as helping to shape the material in performances in the year before it was finally recorded in December 2013.

In fact, Antonioli recalls the moment, three years ago, when she decided that she had to do this project. Clark started playing "Boho Dance" and "I started singing along. I asked: do you know this tune, do you know that one? And he knew them all, by heart, just about every song she ever wrote."

"Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light" was recorded "live" at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, with "each of us isolated so we could all play at the same time. Thus the improvisational sections and endings and all the interaction were happening as it would in a concert. This is generally not how people make records anymore," adds Antonioli. "Most singers get their 'tracks' and redo or practice their parts and then record."