I’m sitting here listening to Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter play “Both Sides Now” from “River – The Joni Letters”, Herbie’s newest effort. If you held a gun to my head ( and you’d have to ) and forced me to say who I thought the greatest musician alive was I would say “Herbie Hancock….now please put the gun down.” He dazzles and he breaks your heart; he’s as complex as they come, yet so accessible.
Right now Wayne and Herbie are capturing the poignancy of the lyrics of the song like lightning in a bottle. You don’t have to hold a gun to my head for me to say that Joni is the best lyricist of her time. Sorry everyone, it’s true. She bitch slaps Bob Dylan and tears Leonard Cohen a new one. There. I said it.
But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day
So there I am, driving down Route 24 and listening to the album on the Ipod and I hear the cover song “River”. Herbie and Wayne like an old couple on a dance floor putting all the youngsters to shame, anticipating each other’s every move, yet still offering each other the odd surprise. I laughed out loud and heard the words coming out of my mouth “I’m so fucking glad to be alive.” Then came the tears. I get the same way when I listen to the Ravel piece Herbie plays on “Gershwin’s World”.
Herbie casts each song so beautifully. Luciana Souza understands the restraint needed to sing Joni’s lyrics. A devastating understated melancholy accompany the words to Amelia.
I can’t say that all the singers bring out the combination of acerbic wit, heartbreaking vulnerability, artistic detachment, pain and reckless love that make up Joni’s tunes but I particularly love River and Amelia.
Joni – my Canadian homegirl - sings of a loneliness that is so familiar to me I feel like she’ s whispering in my ear. “People’s Parties”, “A Case of You” and the new “If I Had a Heart” and of course “Amelia” (mentioned above) bore straight into my heart. You know that feeling you get when you hear a singer or read a poet and think –“How does she know how I feel?”
Maybe I’ve never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm
What a treat for me – my childhood hero’s work being played by a magician musician like Herbie.