In her breakthrough as a singer, which came in 1968 when she was living in New York, Joni Mitchell displayed – e.g. in albums like Clouds, the style of which was influenced by rock and deeply rooted in folk music – her early ideals of composition and arrangement: melodic simplicity, economy of instrumentation and subtlety in the use of electronic instruments.
Brittle folk melody, however, was quickly to be superseded by a more forceful idiom in the boundary zone between jazz and rock, inspired partly by her collaboration with guitarist and singer David Crosby and, later on, with experimental musicians, especially from the West Coast. Her piano playing is set off by an instrumentation of gathering density, tinged for example by the addition of wind instruments. With Woodstock, which if anything is a hymn to the contemporary Love and Peace movement, she achieved total international recognition.
In a remarkable partnership in 1979 with one of her great mentors, the legendary bass player Charlie Mingus, Joni Mitchell moves closer to jazz again, and her next LP, Mingus, gives proof of her astonishing capacity for transcending musical boundaries and, on that particular occasion, combining swing, modern jazz and folk music with a dash of straight rock’n'roll. The list of players in itself illustrates the link between rock and jazz: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine.
More recent, illuminating compositions like Chalk Mark In A Rain Storm (1988), Night Ride Home (1991) and the album Turbulent Indigo (1994) bear witness of an unfailing capacity for breaking new artistic ground.