The second annual Bread and Roses Festival of Music, held at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley over Labor Day weekend, proved to be one of the most exciting musical events of the year. The three-day concert series was sponsored by singer Mimi Farina's Bread and Roses organization, which brings free live entertainment into Marin County hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation clinics.
Perhaps the highlight of the festival was the appearance Saturday night of Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock. Joni had not performed in public since the Band's, Last Waltz in November of '76, and this marked the first time she had teamed up with Hancock. She opened her set with solo versions of two songs from her Hejira LP, "Coyote" and "Furry Sings The Blues." After a new song, she put down her guitar and sang an acapella bebop tune about a dry cleaner from Des Moines who gets lucky in Las Vegas.
Next Herbie joined her onstage and together they performed two songs from Joni's upcoming album featuring her words and jazz great Charlie Mingus' music. The tunes were challenging to say the least, "Chair In The Sky" painted a stunning visual portrait of the aging, ailing Mingus alone in New York and featured moments of dissonance and moments that swung. Herbie's keyboard figures were complex and ornate and Joni's arching vocals seemed to span several octaves, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" followed, again with lyrics about Mingus, this time centering about his relationship with the late Lester Young, for whom Mingus originally wrote the song.
Their second encore on Sunday night (Joni and Herbie played Sunday to help boost poor sales for that day - it didn't work) was a lovely version of "The Circle Game" with the Persuasions, Tim Hardin, Tom Paxton and Odetta (all of whom had played that afternoon) helping out on vocals. It was magical, indeed.