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Joni Mitchell, an American Journey and Other Flights of Joy

Full Band MintIt’s been a whirlwind month that began with a call from pal Richard Gibbs to “put your pants on and get over here right now- just trust me!” so I hustled over to Richard’s beautiful Woodshed Recording Studio, whereupon I immediately encountered Terry Reid and David Lindley outside the studio doors. I looked in and there were Richard Thompson, JD Souther, Dave Stewart, Benmont Tench, Louise Goffin and others, preparing to film a BBC special, each contributing one song with a personal preamble. Talk about an open mic– WOW! Terry and I connected right away, laughing our butts off over his “Acme Whistle” (think Highway 61 Revisited) and other bits of arcane British humor until it was his turn to sing, accompanied by the gifted David Lindley. A fab day if there ever was one.

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I arrived at the Smoke House in Burbank the following week, accompanied by Scarlet, for Joni Mitchell’s 74th birthday celebration. This was an incredible honor made possible by Scarlet, who introduced me to Joni last summer. A fun professional photo shoot was offered for arriving guests in an ante room and our first encounter after photos was Neil Young. Neil was arriving with Daryl Hannah and other likely suspects, and that pretty much set the tone for the evening. The Smoke House was a hip, under-the-radar choice for the event, all old-school LA, with the red leather upholstery and ’20’s-era attire. Joni made a fabulous entrance and danced the first dance, to everyone’s delight and surprise, and the evening rolled out from there. It was amazing to witness Joni’s recovery and to be part of such an historic celebration, especially with Joni being my inspiration to become a songwriter in the first place.

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On the heels of these events, Scarlet, Brian and I re-joined forces with the incredible Michael Carey and powerhouse Jonathan Smith, as the bad-ass ensemble we call the “Soho House Band” (pictured above) to play a “farewell” show at the Mint LA as part of the lineup for Hunnypot Radio’s 12th anniversary. We were joined by special guest MB Gordy on percussion and pal Jeff Gray making a guitar cameo on Sugar Baby. We had a slammin’ show– my second at the Mint in a mere 11 years, I joked– and I got to blow out of town on a very high note, thanks to these incredible musicians and the love of friends and supporters.

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A few days later, I was on I40 East headed for Boston. I was looking forward to a solo trip across our country, and the road Gods did not disappoint. I got to see America again, this time along the Southern route with sections of the old Route 66 crisscrossing all the way from Malibu to Memphis. I got to ~feel~ our great land and to experience the physical expanse, the diversity and the similarities. For a number of reasons, this trip restored my faith in our people, our country and myself.

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My destinations mostly had a music bent and my first stop was Winslow, AZ, which as you know “is such a fine sight to see.” I had a blast with the locals and it was a fun and reasonably close initial destination. From there I gunned it 800+ miles to Oklahoma City, the home state of Voices of van Gogh co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member John Durrill. After a long day of driving, I enjoyed a sirloin at Cattlemen’s, the historic restaurant in the stockyards of Oklahoma City. I next crossed into New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas, which were stunning in the mid-Autumn splendor as I rolled into Memphis, Tennessee. I went directly to Sun Studios and had a fascinating tour with a great guide, who shared some wonderful stories and deep history based around central Sun figures Elvis, Roy Orbison and others. And the food- WOW! I had the best BBQ I’ve ever had at Blues City thanks to the recommendation of Boston pal and former Memphis resident Michael Dinallo. Fantastic. From Memphis, I left I40 to make my way North on I81 with a first stop in Staunton, Virginia, home of not only the American Shakespeare company, but of Fretwell Bass and Acoustic Instruments, owned by– yup– Jerry Fretwell. My son turned me on to Staunton when he lived in Charlottesville during his post-graduate work. My final stop was Syracuse, New York, to see my brother on Thanksgiving Eve, while also avoiding the entire Washington to Boston traffic corridor. The last stretch took me from Syracuse, across the Berkshires– which “seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting”– and into New England on Thanksgiving morning, for Thanksgiving with Kathy and family. It all unfolded perfectly.

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On the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, we jumped right back into the logistics of cross-country moving and should be in a new place in the Boston area in early January. If all goes well, we’ll be living just a few miles away from Kathy’s new office– a Godsend for the New England winter. Whew!

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People have asked what inspired me to move away from Malibu and the short answer is “mission accomplished.”  I was able to find my place in the music community of LA, a community of world-class artists, songwriters and composers, and to see where I fit with people I would like to think of as my peers. The result was inspiring and affirming. I feel like I can go forward with a renewed sense of self and purpose. On a personal level, we are very happy to be back with family, friends and proximity to England and Europe.

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What lies ahead is always a mystery, but we’ve put some markers down. Paul, Clayton and I will begin meeting in December to establish a format for a Boston-based residency. This will inevitably yield a freshness to our sound and approach. I plan to return to LA in early 2018 for basic tracks for Scarlet’s solo album and a performance or two, hopefully at Soho (Little Beach) House in Malibu. England looms and I hope to get over again this winter or in the early spring for the daffodils, my favorite time of year in London. I have a date with Mark Zamcheck to revisit my work as a bassist on some of his compositions and I also hope to resume my dialog about copyright futures and media with MIT.  These new beach heads and the outcome of my work in LA in both music and enterprise-building will be the building blocks of the next chapter. Life is full and I am very grateful to have had the privilege of such a beautiful experience in LA and Malibu.

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There are no live dates on the books yet, but we release “XXV,” our 25-year retrospective on December 7th, the birthday of my late friend, Ho, and my Dad, the two men who have inspired me most in life. Ho encouraged me to stay the course in music when fear was telling me to turn away, and my Dad gave me the gift of freedom of thought to believe in endless possibilities.

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I wish you all a happy and healthy Holiday season and I hope your New Year brings you health, love and happiness.

I’ll see you soon.

JC