When: 1 p.m., July 21
Tickets: $15 for SB Jazz Society members; $25 for non-members; $10 for students
By JOSH GREGA
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell and jazz musician Herbie Hancock may not immediately jump out as two easily associated artists whose songs could be combined into arrangements, but jazz group KIM-PROJECT will be performing exactly that when it takes the stage at its July 21 concert at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club sponsored by The Santa Barbara Jazz Society. According to lead vocalist Kimberly Ford, one half of the combo’s eponymous members, the pairing of Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Hancock’s music isn’t that unusual. An expert in Ms. Mitchell’s repertoire who also fronts a Joni Mitchell tribute group called A Celebration of Joni Mitchell, Ms. Ford explained that the Canadian singer-songwriter widely known for folk music actually has no shortage of jazz music in her recorded career.
“She kind of fell out of favor with a pop audience pretty early on when she started leaning more toward jazz. They didn’t know what to do with that. They kind of wanted the old Joni who was out in a field of flowers with a dulcimer and she was progressing… She became much more jazz oriented, which for me, was great,” she said.
Ms. Ford added that Joni Mitchell’s music not only contains general explorations into jazz music, but that Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Hancock are actually “really close friends.” In 2007, Mr. Hancock released a Joni Mitchell tribute album called “River: The Joni Letters,” which won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2008. According to Joni Mitchell’s website, Mr. Hancock played electric piano on the singer’s 1979 album “Mingus,” a collaboration between Ms. Mitchell and jazz bassist-bandleader Charles Mingus. While some songs in KIM-PROJECT’s average set list like “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” are faithful to the versions that appear on “Mingus,” a majority of the songs are arrangements combining a Joni Mitchell song with a Herbie Hancock song.
These arrangements are written by the group’s other titular member, jazz saxophonist Kim Richmond. A Los Angeles-based veteran of the music industry who since 1967 has been involved with various aspects of the business like performing, scoring films, and making music for commercials, Mr. Richmond told the News-Press that his arrangements combine the two artists’ music so they “go from one tune to another, one lyric to another.” They are written to seamlessly combine the tunes, sometimes in small pieces. With this approach, Ms. Ford might begin singing a Joni Mitchell song that reverts to a Herbie Hancock lyric without the former concluding, and then back again.
“I’ve written it so it’s a natural thing and not jolting,” Mr. Richmond said.
When asked to name her favorite of Mr. Richmond’s syntheses of Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock, Ms. Ford said she particularly likes his arrangement of Ms. Mitchell’s 1982 song “Moon at the Window” and Mr. Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child” from 1968. Though renditions of Mitchell’s jazz music have a large presence in KIM-PROJECT’s performances, the band does play versions of songs from her early career as a folk singer. This includes a version of “I Had a King” from her 1968 debut album “Song to a Seagull,” paired with Mr. Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance.” While all of Mr. Hancock’s material in the show is “decidedly jazz,” for Ms. Ford the inclusion of songs spanning the entirety of Ms. Mitchell’s career makes for an exciting variety in the set list.
“I don’t think anything ever sounds the same. No two songs sound the same,” she said.
When not performing and in Mr. Richmond’s case, writing and arranging music, the two Kims spend much of their time as music educators. According to Mr. Richmond’s personal website, he spent 12 years as an adjunct professor in the University of Southern California’s jazz studies department and conducts numerous jazz camps and clinics every spring and summer. Ms. Ford teaches at the Northwoods Jazz Camp in Rhinelander, WI as well as the Santa Barbara Jazz Workshop, which she co-founded and oversees with Mr. Richmond. The workshop will take place before the two the stage with KIM-PROJECT at SOhO, and will last from July 7 to July 11. It will be held at Cate School located at 1960 Cate Mesa Rd. in Carpinteria and those interested can register at santabarbarajazzcamp.com.
Tickets for KIM-PROJECT’s SOhO performance will only be available at the door and will cost $15 for Santa Barbara Jazz Society members, $25 for non members, and $10 for students. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. and the show will last between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St. #205 in Santa Barbara.