Kimberly Ford and her band to perform classics at Lobero Theatre
‘Both Sides Now’ and beyond
A Celebration of Joni Mitchell featuring Kimberly Ford to perform timeless songs in Lobero concert
A CELEBRATION OF JONI MITCHELL FEATURING KIMBERLY FORD
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 23
Where: Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.
Cost: $24 and $30 for general admission, $40 for VIP seats, which include a post-show meet-and-greet reception. There’s a 20 percent discount for students with ID.
Information: 805-963-0761, www.lobero.org; www.celebrationofjonimitchell.com
By Dave Mason,
News-Press Staff Writer
Airplane passenger Joni Mitchell looked out her window and saw the images that inspired “Both Sides Now.”
“She looked down, and she saw the clouds,” jazz singer Kimberly Ford told the News-Press recently in the rehearsal room at her Santa Barbara home. Mrs. Ford, 65, explained further by singing Ms. Mitchell’s words after that flight:
“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
“From up and down and still somehow
“It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
“I really don’t know clouds at all.”
Mrs. Ford said Ms. Mitchell, the renowned Canadian singer who turned 76 in October, used clouds in the 1969 song as a metaphor about perspective, life and depression. Mrs. Ford continued to sing:
“So many things I would have done
“But clouds got in my way.”
“She was 19 when she wrote it. 19!” Mrs. Ford said. “How much life experience could you have? But for her, she actually had quite a bit.
“She had a baby out of wedlock, which at that point was a really scandalous thing to have happened. She had not let her parents know. She sent herself to Toronto, had the baby, gave it up for adoption and was struggling,” Mrs. Ford said.
“She was a coffeehouse singer with no money and barely enough money to feed herself, living in Toronto,” Mrs. Ford said. “Those were really rough years, and she was writing (songs) like that.”
Mrs. Ford, who was 14 or 15 when she first heard Ms. Mitchell’s music (specifically her 1971 album “Blue”), said the singer wrote songs that resonated with her generation. “She had words for my emotions before I did. … They helped me.”
Mrs. Ford watched and listened as Ms. Mitchell rose above her struggles to produce timeless and heartfelt songs that dealt with everything from love to freedom.
Mrs. Ford will salute that legacy when her seven-piece band, Celebration of Joni Mitchell featuring Kimberly Ford, performs at 8 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon St.
The concert will feature 23 songs, everything from “You Turn Me On” to “Help Me,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” music from Ms. Mitchell’s 1979 album saluting jazz legend Charles Mingus (“Mingus”) and of course, “Both Sides Now.” The songs are from the 1960s through the 1990s, which covers the prolific songwriter’s career.
“I think there are little pieces of almost every story in the songs, at least in the ones we choose, that tell a little bit of my story,” said Mrs. Ford, whose husband, Richard Ford, died earlier this year after surgery on his aorta.
“I feel like I continued to be served by the lyrical expression of those songs,” Mrs. Ford said.
She explained she relates to Ms. Mitchell’s songs. “I think a lot of people relate to them.”
Mrs. Ford developed a lifelong love for music as she grew up as Kimberly Cross in Cupertino and Fresno. She started her performing career in the late 1970s as part of a trio in Sandpoint, Idaho.
In 1981, she moved to Santa Barbara, where she met Mr. Ford after he hired her to perform at his company’s Christmas party. They were married in 1986 and had two children — daughter Natalie Ford, now 30, and son Austin Ford, 27.
Mrs. Ford, who teaches vocal jazz and is president of the Santa Barbara Vocal Jazz Foundation, learned about jazz when she moved to Seattle in 1989 and continued to embrace the genre when she moved back to Santa Barbara with her family in 1998.
A Celebration of Joni Mitchell featuring Kimberly Ford started six years ago and has performed Ms. Mitchell’s music at concerts locally and throughout Northern and Southern California and the Southwest.
The ensemble has worked to respect the spirit and original intent of Ms. Mitchell’s music, right down to Mrs. Ford’s acoustic and electric guitars being tuned differently for each song. That’s what Ms. Mitchell did to make each song unique.
Mrs. Ford noted Ms. Mitchell’s music leaves room for interpretation. She demonstrated that during the interview when she spontaneously sang “Carey” (1966) while other musicians entered the room for a rehearsal. Tom Lackner had just set up his drums and decided to accompany Mrs. Ford, and fellow percussionist Sven Holcomb played the tambourine. There was a special rhythmic sound that Mrs. Ford described as a New Orleans vibe.
The News-Press listened as the entire seven-piece band rehearsed songs such as “The Fiddle and The Drum” (1969). Like Ms. Mitchell, Mrs. Ford and Mr. Holcomb, who’s also a background vocalist, guitarist and the technician handling Mrs. Ford’s guitars, sang the song a cappella.
Then Mrs. Ford’s instrumentalists took the song a step further and created the sound of an Irish gig that wasn’t in Ms. Mitchell’s version. The change seemed to complement what the songwriter had originally intended.
Others in the band are keyboardist and vocalist George Friedenthal, electric and acoustic bass player Tom Etchart, saxophonist Tom Buckner and guitarist, violinist and vocalist Lee Rollag.
One song in their set, “Free Man in Paris” (1974), reminded Mrs. Ford about going on the road with her band, although, unlike Ms. Mitchell and her musicians, Mrs. Ford’s band never skipped out on a hotel bill. The escape by Ms. Mitchell and her band in the French capital inspired the song.
Mrs. Ford said Ms. Mitchell needed a day off from responsibility and found that when she and her band didn’t pay the bill.
“She produced so many albums in such a short amount of time that it ate her alive during those years. There were tremendous demands on her, and she was a simple girl from Canada,” Mrs. Ford said. “That’s what this song was about. Out the window they went, skipping down the street.”
Mrs. Ford explained her and other fans’ enduring interest in Ms. Mitchell.
“She’s a bit of a maverick, and we can all relate with that,” Mrs. Ford said. “Her music was timeless, or I wouldn’t still be doing it.”
“What’s really interesting to me is she doesn’t necessarily write about herself. She’s basically reporting,” Mrs. Ford said, referring to Ms. Mitchell’s observations of the world around her.
One example is “Big Yellow Taxi” (1970), which deals with two different issues: the environment and relationships. The lyrics include:
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Til it’s gone.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.”
“It’s playful and light and it bounces along, but if you stop and think about what she’s singing about, it’s really powerful stuff,” Mrs. Ford said. “Environmental issues are even more relevant now than they were then.”
COVER PHOTO CREDIT
INSIDE MAIN CAPTION
RAFAEL MALDONADO/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
A Celebration of Joni Mitchell featuring Kimberly Ford rehearses at Mrs. Ford’s home in Santa Barbara. The band will perform 23 of Ms. Mitchell’s songs Nov. 23 at the Lobero Theatre.
CAPTIONS FOR OTHER PHOTOS (Steve, I think simple IDs will work. No need to use all of them, whatever ones you think work:)
MALE GUITARIST OR VIOLINIST (no glasses)
PERCUSSIONIST (BONGOS) OR GUITARIST (with glasses)
ELECTRIC AND ACOUSTIC BASS PLAYER (I’ll need to see the photo to distinguish Etchart from guitarist Lee Rollag.)