With the 2024 Grammy Awards in the rearview mirror including a first-time performance by Joni Mitchell during the ceremony, we’ll look back at her album “Court and Spark” on Wednesday, February 7, on The Night Beat.

Released 50 years ago in January of 1974, it was nominated in four different categories by the Recording Academy: Album of the Year, Record of the Year for the song “Help Me”, Best Female Pop Performance (also for “Help Me” and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for the song “Down to You” (arranged by Joni and Tom Scott).  It took home a Grammy for the latter.

We’ll include jazz covers of many of the songs found on “Court and Spark” performed by Luciana Souza, Tierney Sutton, Lisa Engelken, Karrin Allyson, Melody Diachun and more.  We’ll also include other Joni songs performed by Kurt Elling, Robert Glasper, the vocal ensemble Moss, and a couple of non-Joni songs performed by Joni herself.

Also on tap: a couple of tracks from Pat Williams’ 1974 Grammy-winning album “Threshold”.  The aforementioned Tom Scott was a key component of Joni’s “Court and Spark”.  Tom is the featured tenor saxophone and flute soloist throughout the “Threshold” album.

The drummer on “Threshold” was John Guerin who was equally well-versed as a Los Angeles studio musician, a rock & roll drummer, and a jazz drummer.  After participating in some of Joni’s early sessions for “Court and Spark”, drummer Russ Kunkel told Joni that she needed to find a jazz drummer as he didn’t think he was a good fit for the music.  Joni searched and soon found John Guerin.  A romance between Joni and Joni bloomed during the “Court and Spark” sessions.  They quietly became engaged in early 1975.  But during the tour in support of Joni’s “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” album in 1976, Joni and John broke up and with it the cancellation of the remainder of the tour including all international dates.

Pat (or Patrick) Williams was best known for writing music and theme songs for television (Streets of San Francisco, Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, the Bob Newhart Show, Lou Grant, The Magician) and scored over 200 movies including Breaking Away and Kramer vs. Kramer.  He was also a visiting professor and composer-in-residence at the University of Colorado (Denver) during the 1970s.

The juxtaposition of Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” and Pat Williams’ “Threshold” may strike some as a bit strange but both were Grammy winners, both employ lots of jazz or overtones of jazz and both include Tom Scott and John Guerin as key figures in each recording including their ultimate commercial and artistic success.

Listen in to The Night Beat with your host Doug Crane on Wednesday, February 7 at 8 pm on KUVO JAZZ…the Oasis in the City!

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