A celebration of Joni Mitchell featuring Kimberly Ford at the Palms Playhouse

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Get out your best tie-dyed shirt. Stuff a flower in your hair. And come back to the garden. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival, and there’s no better way to celebrate that milestone than by hearing the music of America’s greatest singer-songwriter.

Relive that Aquarian moment when A Celebration of Joni Mitchell featuring Kimberly Ford returns to the Bay Area with an appearance at The Palms Playhouse on Saturday, Nov. 9. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23.

Mitchell famously wrote her anthemic paean to the 1969 festival without setting foot there. Her manager forbid her from going, concerned she wouldn’t make a Monday appearance on the Dick Cavett show. So she hunkered down in a NYC hotel room and let televised news reports fuel her muse. The rest, as they say, is history.

With her spot-on bright and flexible soprano, Ford has been taking that epochal moment to new heights. “No singer on the West Coast is paying more scrupulous attention to Mitchell’s wondrous book than Santa Barbara’s Kimberly Ford,” writes Andy Gilbert in Santa Cruz’s Good Times.

Six years in, Ford and her band have logged numerous successful tours, including standing-room-only shows at The Reel Fish Shop in Sonoma, Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz and Fenix Supper Club in San Rafael. Other high-profile venues include Yoshi’s Oakland, Grand Annex in San Pedro and Sun City Lincoln. In April 2020, COJM mounts its first East Coast tour with an appearance at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Watch video here

The veteran Santa Barbara songstress draws on Mitchell’s four-decade-plus canon of songwriting gems. Die-hard Joni fans can’t get enough at these events, singing along on such baby-boomer anthems as Big Yellow TaxiRiverBoth Sides Now and, of course, Woodstock. The band covers a large swath of Mitchell’s repertoire with a focus on her early years through 1980.

Ford’s passion for music began in her native Fresno, where she learned to sing to Mitchell’s 1971 masterpiece, Blue. She settled in Santa Barbara (after stops in Seattle and Banff) singing an eclectic mix of jazz standards and Americana in local watering holes. Meanwhile, Ford built a robust teaching practice. Today, she leads clinics with the Santa Barbara Vocal Jazz Foundation, co-directs the Santa Barbara Jazz Workshop (with veteran saxophonist Kim Richmond) and serves on the vocal faculty of the Northwoods Jazz Camp in Wisconsin. She also hosts the monthly Santa Barbara Jazz Jam.

The band, modeled on Mitchell’s mid-1970s tenure with Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, features George Friedenthal (Kenny Loggins) on keyboards, piano and melodica; Lee Rollag, guitar and violin (Roger Miller); Tom Buckner, saxophone (Grant Geissman); Sven Holcomb, backup vocals, guitars and percussion (Jeff Bridges, Shaun Cassidy); Tom Etchart, bass (Dianne Reeves); and Tom Lackner, drums (Jeff Bridges).

By any yardstick, Mitchell ranks among the most influential songwriters to emerge from the turbulent 1960s — a multiple Grammy winner who fused contemporary folk with elements of rock, jazz and world music. Despite retiring from the stage more than a decade ago, Mitchell remains a fixture in the media and popular culture. Sightings of her at concerts around LA go viral on social media. She’s seen in Martin Scorcese’s new film, Rolling Thunder: A Bob Dylan Story on Netflix. And up-and-coming singer-songwriters constantly draw comparisons to Mitchell, whose songs remain as relevant today as ever.

In 2017, Blue topped NPR’s 150 Greatest Albums by Women. Of that choice, critic Ann Powers wrote that “after nearly fifty years, Blue remains the clearest and most animated musical map to the new world that women traced, sometimes invisibly, within their daily lives in the aftermath of the utopian, dream-crushing 1960s.”

Ticket link available at www.palmsplayhouse.com.

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