Material: Tackling another songwriter’s repertoire can be daunting, especially songs by high-profile artists. It is good to set your intention, whether it’s a unique interpretation, a strong grasp on the material that pairs well with your voice, or a concept built around the songs. In “On A Lonely Road, Travelin’ with Joni,” Remy Block pays homage to Joni Mitchell by tracing her own travels growing up in Dallas and moving to Brooklyn to live a creative, artistic life. As a jazz and cabaret singer, Block’s style works well with Mitchell’s later work, like “Night Ride Home” and “Turbulent Indigo,” but also puts a twist on earlier work, like “Big Yellow Taxi” from “Ladies Of The Canyon” (a must-do and still relevant today) as well as “A Case of You” from the album Blue.
Musicianship: Block’s powerful and polished voice demonstrates vocal mastery of the material. Musical director Gregory Toroian has crafted sophisticated jazz renditions of Mitchell’s songs that work well with later gems but also put a new spin on the earlier poppier numbers. Millhouse and Tierno complete the cohesive trio, providing solid backup with strong jazz chops and stylish riffs without stepping on Block’s vocals.
Performance: More in line with cabaret shows than pop/rock performances, this show adhered to a script written by Block, enlisting director Raquel Cion to shape the performance into a dramatic event. The script paralleled each song with stories from Block’s life––a good device to build a show around. At times, the stories overshadowed the emotional hook-up with the material, leaving a longing to know more about why these particular experiences were viscerally tied to these selections beyond the side-by-side stories and matching songs. But to her credit, Block’s strong grasp on staging and crafting a performance were quite evident.
Summary: No doubt comfortable on stage and with the material, Block is commanding, with the mindfulness that being on stage is an experience for both the audience and the performer. Incorporating a more organic approach, and unearthing more of the bottom line emotions, would enhance an already solid show while still preserving the drama and anecdotal style.
The Players: Remy Block, vocals; Gregory Toroian, piano, arrangements; Steve Millhouse, bass; Ron Tierno, drums; Raquel Cion, director.
Remy Block - "Big Yellow Taxi"
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