Oklahoma City - Joni Mitchell and a band of stellar jazz musicians played an outstanding concert on a sultry summer evening at the Zoo Amphitheater here.
It was a star-laden weekend in Oklahoma, with Miss Mitchell playing here while the Bee Gees were in Tulsa Friday night. They moved on to Oklahoma Saturday.
This was the opening date of Miss Mitchell's first national concert tour in nearly three years. It is an especially pivotal tour for the artist, coming on the heels of her new album, "Mingus" (Asylum).
To present the music in an appropriate setting, she recruited an impressive list of musicians. Jaco Pastorius on bass, Pat Metheny on guitar, Don Alias on drums and percussion, Michael Brecker on saxophone and Lyle Mays on piano.
What is particularly impressive is Miss Mitchell's ability to sing and play in the jazz field. Her albums started a drift in that direction several years ago and she has apparently carried the bulk of her fans along with her.
Her artistic growth into jazz coincides with the ever-increasing jazz awareness of the listening public.
While many jazz artists have crossed over into the pop mainstream, few contemporary artists have been able to cross into the jazz field with artistic success. "Mingus" is proof positive Joni Mitchell can do it.
Working solidly in the band context, Miss Mitchell's guitar work was steady and impressive in its own right. The group added some new jazz and jazz-rock textures that have not been present in several of Miss Mitchell's songs before. Obviously the jazz soul was there from the beginning, as the new treatment worked beautifully in live presentation.
Her voice soars with the complex Charles Mingus melody on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and her own "God Must Be a Boogie Man." With her stunning musical support, Miss Mitchell displays a startling command of jazz. Her voice was supple and expressive through most of the evening.
She opened her impressive set with two favorites - "Big Yellow Taxi" and "In France They Kiss On Main Street." The band rocked out strongly on :Raised on Robbery," the first single taken from her album "Court and Spark."
An Acoustic rendition of "Amelia" was impressive and she received an ethereal background for "Furry Sings the Blues."
The Persuasions opened for Miss Mitchell and joined her for a moving "Shadows and Light," the synthesizer-laden song from the album "Hissing of Summer Lawns."
By this time, near the end of the show, Miss Mitchell's voice was getting hoarse. But that didn't stop a playful version (again with The Persuasions) of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" from getting the audience excited again.
Her final song of the evening was "Woodstock." The folk-flavored anthem from the '60s was sung by Miss Mitchell accompanying herself on guitar.
It was an impressive concert. Joni Mitchell again stretches her musical horizons and comes out a winner.
Like many pop music fans, I was excited at the prospect of seeing the Bee Gees in concert. Their 1976 Tulsa appearance was a strong presentation and musically solid.
The ticket prices for the 1979 tour admittedly took me aback. After all, $15 is a lot to pay for a 90-minute show.
But, in their sellout performance Saturday night here at the Myriad, the Gibbs gave the audience their money's worth - and then some.
The performance and the presentation were nothing less than spectacular. The Gibb brothers, complemented by a band, horn section and the Sweet Inspirations as background vocalists, kicked out all the jams for the 15,000 plus audience.
Utilizing all kinds of special effects, the Bee Gees sparkled on the new pop-disco tunes and impressed on their '60s ballads. Robin was the featured lead vocalist on many of the older songs and frequently he and Barry shared vocal leads.
The medley of the old songs - including "Massachusetts," "New York Mining Disaster 1941," "I Can't See Nobody" and "I Started a Joke" - was one of the show's finest segments.
Robin's quavering voice added just the right touch of poignancy and a tinge of sadness to the majestic ballads from the '60s. And, of course, the gorgeous three-part harmonies by the brothers were superb.