Joni Mitchell – River
It’s closing time. Today I have 2 more shows at the Grand Theatre for Joni Mitchell – River. I’m glad I have a few gigs booked in November and December that I have to prepare for otherwise I’d be left with a big hole to fill. There’s nothing like an entire month of work for a musician. Especially when the venue is just down the street.
There are so many positives I can take from being part of this. Some will know that I have struggled a bit with feeling anxious before a few gigs lately but that didn’t appear throughout rehearsals, previews or the actual run. Well, maybe a bit on opening night. I’m so happy to have kicked that issue further to the curb. The Grand had a meet and greet session earlier in the year. I went up to stand on the stage after that and the room looked really big. I’ve played a few bigger rooms but the main stage at the Grand was on the bucket list. Today it feels small and intimate.
When I mentioned that I was playing this show people always asked if we were playing the big Jaco Pastorius/Joni Mitchell tunes. We did play Coyote and Hejira and I did attempt those Jaco like noises including some short bass solos. I’ll always be working on making a coherent musical statement and sometimes that worked well. I actually enjoyed attempting the solos and didn’t worry if it worked or not. That’s progress for me. It’s also been ages since I’ve slapped the bass but was asked to do that on a couple of tunes. I had to practice a bit to get the timing down again.
The show is different from any other theatre gig I have done. Usually there is a book and you read your part each night but this was more like a jazz gig with lead sheets. I used my fretted and fretless F Basses as well as my double bass. Even a wee bit of arco. Sometimes switching basses mid tune.
I really didn’t know what to expect coming in and I did wonder at the first couple of rehearsals how it was all going to come together. Allen McInnes, the director, had a vision for the show and I think we realized that for him. But like every theatre show, even though I was on stage for the run, I really don’t know what it looks like. I’d love to see a video of the show with all the lighting cues and a listen to a mix from the board.
It’s been a privilege to work with the cast and crew. I’ve tried to look up from the stand a bit these last few shows to catch glimpses of Emm Gryner, Louise Pitre and Brendan Wall deliver Joni’s lyrics. Although I can’t look up for long. I might lose my place in the chart. Greg Lowe, the MD from Winnipeg as been great to work with as well as Tony DeLuca (horns/keys) and Stephan Szczesniak(drums/percussion).
A special thanks to Emm Gryner who recommended me for the show in the first place. I sometimes say that if this return to a life in music ended tomorrow I can say I’m really happy with how it has all turned out. This show has truly been one of the highlights since I started playing again in the mid 2000s. I could never have dreamed that I would play in a production like this when I picked up the basses again.