An illuminating look at the female giants of songwriting of the sixties and seventies.
By Joel Benjamin
Whitney Bashor’s show at Feinstein’s/54 Below paid homage to Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Judy Collins and other female superstar songwriters, with a quick visit to James Taylor, all Greenwich Village coffee bar folk favorites who achieve international stardom. Although these songs helped define the pop music world of the sixties and seventies, this was no nostalgic trip down memory lane. Mr. Bashor’s honest, beautifully sung renditions—and the beautiful arrangements played by Matt Hinkley and his crew—shined a fresh light on these, showing just how inventive these artists were with words and music.
The first six songs were all Joni Mitchell. From the wishful thinking of “All I Want” which opened the show to the warmly flirtatious “Down to You” and finally, the sad musing on fame and loss, “Little Green,” Ms. Bashor showed that she understood the words, her high, but layered voice wrapping itself around the eccentrically beautiful melodies.
Joan Baez’s bitter “Diamonds and Rust” (ostensibly about her breakup with Bob Dylan), was followed by Janis Ian’s “Jesse,” yet another heartbreaking song of longing, but from a more passive position. In the first, the woman is all vitriol, in the latter all soft aching.
Things picked up with a rollicking “Sweet Blindness” (Laura Nyro), tambourines pounding and Ms. Bashor’s two excellent backup singers, Tracy Lynn Olivera and Katie Klaus, harmonizing with almost religious fervor.
Judy Collins’ “Since You Asked” was dreamy with its poetic imagery, but Ms. Bashor never let it sound drippy, as can happen with this song. It was clearly a mature love song.
“Cactus Tree,” Mitchell’s paean to oddball, but pleasurable relationships between oblivious men and women, had a bouncy joy, which came through in its complex rhythms and constantly changing melody.
One of the best observations to emerge from Ms. Bashor’s concert was how wise and observant Jonie Mitchell and her colleagues were, pinpointing and illuminated human frailties and strengths.
Mr. Hinkley’s terrific band included Dave Roth on percussion, Justin Goldner on guitar and Randy Landau on bass.
Whitney Bashor (September 15, 2015)
254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue New York, NY
Reservations and information: 646-476-3551