Eastbourne date in celebration of Joni Mitchell

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Hejira, a seven-piece band set up to celebrate the jazz-influenced late-70s works of Joni Mitchell, heads to the Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne on June 8.

Fronted by Hattie Whitehead, the band will offer an evening of songs including Amelia, Woodstock, A Case Of You, Song For Sharon and Edith And The Kingpin.

Having released the albums The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and Mingus during her jazz period, Joni then toured briefly with a band formed from the crème de la crème of contemporary jazz musicians (Metheny, Mays, Brecker, Pastorius and Alias). The tour was recorded, producing the live album Shadows And Light.

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And it is from this album that the band Hejira is drawing the body of its repertoire.

Hattie and Pete (contributed pic)Hattie and Pete (contributed pic)
Hattie and Pete (contributed pic)

Pete Oxley (guitar) set the band up the Christmas before last: “It's quite new. I put this band together for its first gig. I run a jazz club in Oxford and for our Christmas gig I thought it would be nice if we could put a band together to do some Joni Mitchell music particularly from what was called her jazz period in the late 70s. I put together the personnel that would be great players but that would also love the music. We've got a capacity of 120 and it sold out so fast that we thought let's do another gig. The next one was March 1. When I said to our website guy to advertise it, it sold out by 11 the next morning. I thought that maybe this had got some legs. I called a venue in Nottingham and they took it immediately and we had more gigs and even from that first week we had an agent say that they loved the idea of the band. So we went from that first gig to this year when we've got something like 50 gigs.

“Joni went from her folky beginnings as a singer-songwriter but from there she was getting frustrated, as I understand it, with the musicians from her own world who were folky. Someone said to her you need to use jazz musicians because her writing had become more complex.

"Between 75 and 80 she was primarily using jazz musicians in her band. It doesn't sound like jazz music. It is very much songs but it's employing jazz musicians and jazz rhythms. It's very much her style but with the jazz influences coming into her music.”

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Pete grew up in a family of classical musicians, fell for jazz in his late teens, went on to study jazz at the Leeds College of Music, then moved to Paris in his mid-20s. It was there that he began gigging intensively and developing his career as a guitarist, composer and bandleader.

He has produced 16 albums of acclaimed original music including seven with the Swiss guitar virtuoso Nicolas Meier and is one of only a handful of British composers to have their works included in the European Real Book (Sher Publications). The Oxley-Meier Guitar Project continues to record and tour extensively throughout the UK and Europe.

Tickets from the venue.

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