Joni Mitchell, Orion, 1974—latex, oil, and gesso, 60” x 72”—This was the first abstraction that I did. It started with the colors I had seen in Arizona and New Mexico. It gave me an introduction to a new sense of color because in that land everything is muted and subtle. This was really a breakthrough for me because prior to that there was something in the abstract that I had a prejudice against because I didn’t understand it. Then all of a sudden an abstract was coming out of me in pure appreciation, just an emotional response to form, shape, color, and texture.
That the @ecm_records catalog is now available on all the streaming platforms may be the only news worth celebrating these days. Given everything else, I can only look forward to the day when all the craven, manipulative, disingenuous, hateful, hypocritical, ignorant, selfish, spineless, short-sighted, excrement-spewing, high-horse-sitting, ayn-rand-reading, repugnant entrail-people in power get the poetic, criminal, and cosmic justice they deserve. If they don’t kill us all first, that is. Anyway, swipe along for some of my favorite ECM titles that haven’t made the leap to digitalization, and press the biolink for an all ECM mix I made a while back.
While the genius of Joni’s “jazz” period is undeniable, and Hejira easily ranks in my all-time of all-time top five, in these crazy mixed-up times I’ve been loving the “Geffen” years, and in particular 1991’s heavily adult-contemporary Night Ride Home. Coming out when it did, this was only ever pressed on vinyl in Germany—meaning that even though every record store in existence has a shelf of overstock Joni below the bins, this one rarely pops up. I was lucky when a copy found me in Basel a couple months back and am happy to give it its first spin in its new home on Joni’s 74th birthday. If you feel like going deepTubing for some late-era Joni, may I recommend the September 23, 1994 live appearance from a Canadian show called “Intimate & Interactive” with solo acoustic performances in full on smoky rasp, charming low-key banter that confirms her existence on a plane somewhere between Saskatoon and the cosmos, and an in-studio audience that look like a cast of extras borrowed from a scene set at Central Perk. Joni forever.
One of my earliest memories of architecture is from my preschool, where there were two closet-sized, yellow and red painted, skylight-topped play areas recessed into the building off of a covered courtyard. If memory serves, their defining feature was that they were formed out of concrete with multiple levels to climb on or tuck yourself into, like some kind of schoolyard Lawrence Halprin landscape in miniature. Sitting in that yellow space, atop one of the concrete columns, somehow became one of those elusive memories of being 3 or 4 years old that is impossible to render fully, but clearly has shaped so many of my feelings about buildings and design and the power that spaces have over us. I’m positive that early memory is why Paul Rudolph’s Dana Arts Center at Colgate University cast a similar spell on me in my teens. As a 10th grader I visited my sister during her freshman year here, and likely passed through the building on the way to, and from, her dorm. I remember borrowing a tape of Pink Floyd’s Animals, which I hadn’t ever heard, from some guy who lived across the hall from her and putting it on as a fell asleep on the floor (likely after some good-natured, underage drinking). As I drifted off with the tape playing on auto-reverse, the building became a powerful backdrop for my dream—so powerful that I remember it still and that’s saying a lot because I don’t remember much of anything of being 14 years old otherwise. Every time I hear the pulsing guitar strumming on the intro of “Dogs” it takes me right back under that oversized porte-cochère, with flannel shirt and walkman. After I ended up at Colgate myself, I went on to attend all my art history classes here, play piano in the practice rooms, and who knows what else in its maze of levels and passages. Anyway. Buildings are pretty cool like that. I haven’t been back since 1998, but I’ll take my hazy recollections of board-formed concrete, orange wall-to-wall everything, track lighting cans, and art history slides over whatever some dimwit facilities people have done with the place now.