Young jazz singers love Joni.
Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell owned the pop airwaves following her self-titled 1968 record debut. In the 1970s, she began incorporating jazz aspects into her music and using jazz musicians on her recordings. She completed a planned collaboration with jazz great Charles Mingus after his death in January 1979.
So is it any wonder that Winnipeg singer and pianist Amber Epp likes to draw from the Mitchell musical well?
"Her songs are brutally honest; something people shy away from these days," Epp says in an interview before her show next Sunday, Amber Epp Sings Joni Mitchell, at the Park Theatre.
"She paints a perfect picture of a person or event; she puts you in the place," Epps adds.
"Yet her songs still have a little hook -- that's what makes them so popular. They are deceptively simple, but there is a lot more there than you realize at first."
This isn't Epp's first foray into the Joni Mitchell songbook; she did a concert last year of the album Blue but is expanding the repertoire this time.
Epp will do All I Want as a Brazilian samba. "The way she plays it hints at that," Epp says. "Some others are so well-known -- Big Yellow Taxi, for example, has a million versions -- that it's hard to bring something new to the table."
But, she adds, "Be prepared to hear songs done quite differently than you're used to."
Epp will perform with guitarist Keith Price, bassist Julian Bradford and drummer Curtis Nowosad. "I have great musicians to help me out," she says.
"Jazz musicians are always looking for something that stands above everyone else -- her melodies do that," Epp explains. "If someone rises to the top, it causes people to take a look.
"Mitchell has a different style of playing guitar -- she had polio as a child and learned to play chords differently. It's fascinating to look at music that comes from a totally different experience than yours.
"She's given me a lot of ideas about how to write music and share your own experiences with the audience," Epp says, adding, "It's difficult to find new ways to present her music, but being difficult makes it worth doing."
Amber Epp Sings Joni Mitchell Sunday, March 31, at Park Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 advance/ $15 door.
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When you're named the Worst Pop Band Ever, you can only exceed people's expectations.
At least that's the idea behind the tongue-in-cheek name of the Ottawa jazz band that performs two shows in Winnipeg April 9 and 10, drummer Tim Shia says with a chuckle during a telephone interview.
It started as a one-off, Shia says. "We all played in different pop bands, but our first love is jazz. (This band) is an attempt to join the two."
It started with a 2005 gig at The Rex in Toronto, "then someone asked us to pen for The Bad Plus, then we were invited to tour with one of (Bad Plus drummer) Dave King's other bands."
"We all have side projects where each of us is the leader," Shia says, which limits the amount of time they can perform in this band. "And two of us have twins, so we play mostly in Ontario."
But this is the band's third western Canadian tour, and it has played in the East and in the United States.
The tour also includes a contest for the worst pop song ever, asking people to register their picks at www.long-mcquade.com. The contest ends March 30 with winners announced April 2. But, as the band's poster says: "The catch is that the song can be terrible, but you have to actually like it!"
The band will play a mixed bag of material, Shia says, including "all sorts of originals. Everyone has their own writing style, and everyone brings in covers."
The band lineup for the local shows includes Shia, Chris Gale on saxophones, LEO37 on turntables, former Winnipegger Gord Mowat on bass, Winnipeg guitarist Keith Price (subbing for keyboard player Adrian Farrugia) and Winnipeg singer Erin Propp.
Worst Pop Band Ever performs Tuesday, April 9, at Mardi Jazz in the Centre franco-manitobain, and Wednesday, April 10, at Arkadash Café and Bistro.