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Joni Mitchell Makes Surprise Appearance At The Hollywood Bowl To Honor Wayne Shorter Print-ready version

by David Hochman
August 24, 2023

The Circle Game came back around last night at the Hollywood Bowl as Joni Mitchell returned to the Bowl stage for the first time in decades with a rare unannounced appearance to honor her friend and collaborator Wayne Shorter, the jazz saxophonist who died last March.

Seated at a stool and dressed in a black beret and sunglasses, Mitchell joined Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Chris Potter, and members of Shorter's quartet that included bassist John Patitucci, to celebrate the memory of a man Mitchell called "the best saxophonist ever, in my opinion...even over Coltrane and the people who were much more famous," in a statement after Shorter's death.

After easing out of the public eye and several years of rehabilitation following a 2015 rupture of a brain aneuryism, Mitchell returned in 2021 to collect several awards, including a Kennedy Center Honor. Last summer, with encouragement from singer Brandi Carlile, she performed live for the first time in nine years at the Newport Folk Festival, and last June she headlined an emotional concert at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State for a crowd of 27,000.

Although she performed only one song on Wednesday at the Bowl, Mitchell looked happy and at ease, singing in the rich, deep tone that characterizes her voice at age 79. Mitchell first performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 1979 when she headlined the Playboy Jazz Festival that year.

Her appearance last night was the standout in an evening that brought more than a few legends to the stage. Hancock, who serves as the L.A. Philharmonic's Creative Chair for Jazz, is good about mixing talents from different generations, and the Shorter tribute had a then-and-now spirit, with younger performers like Esperanza Spalding and Kamasi Washington sharing the bill with the likes of Carlos Santana and double bassist Ron Carter, now 86, who was a member of Miles Davis's second quintet with Hancock and Shorter. Still, even at 83, Hancock often looked like the most youthful figure on stage, jogging to the microphone and bouncing from piano to Keytar with evident joy.

But it was Mitchell's appearance that got the biggest cheers of the night - and there's a chance it might not be Mitchell's last of the season. After the success of the all-star concerts at The Gorge, another Brandi Carlile & Friends show is coming to the Hollywood Bowl on October 14.

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Added to Library on August 25, 2023. (577)


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