The Music of Joni Mitchell
7:30PM, Saturday, March 3, 2018
TCU Place, Sid Buckwold Theatre
35 – 22nd Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0C8
($15 – $110)
Don’t Give Yourself Away

Vince Mendoza, conductor
Sarah Slean, vocalist
Peter Erskine, drums
Edwin Livingston, bass

In the early 2000s, arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza went in to the studio with Joni Mitchell to record two albums: “Both Sides Now” and “Travelogue” – the SSO is thrilled to present Don’t Give Yourself Away to celebrate the music of Joni Mitchell.

Joni Mitchell’s career crossed musical boundaries, challenged musical ideas, and spoke to the human race in an intimate, personal, political, and profound way.  One of the true maverick’s of musical arts, her music and lyrics had a lasting impact on generations of music makers and music lovers.

It is a pleasure to present the first concert experience of these arrangements with their arranger on stage with us.  The night is dedicated to the iconic Joni Mitchell in gratitude for the inspiration she has given the musical community.

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One of the most versatile and prolific composer–arranger–conductors of the last two decades, multi-Grammy Award winner Vince Mendoza has written arrangements for a wide variety of pop and jazz artists, from Joni Mitchell, Sting, Melody Gardot, Elvis Costello and Bjork to Joe Zawinul, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Al Di Meola, Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, the Yellowjackets and the GRP All-Stars. His compositions have appeared on recordings by the likes of saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist John Abercrombie, drummer Peter Erskine, pianist Joey Calderazzo and singer Kurt Elling. As a leader, Mendoza has released 10 recordings for the Blue Note, ACT, Blue Jackel and Zebra labels, including 1997’s Epiphany (with the London Symphony Orchestra) and 2011’s Nights on Earth, featuring an all-star cast and members of the Metropole Orkest, which Mendoza has led as chief conductor for the past six years.

Vince was recently honored with a Grammy Award for his work on the John Scofield “54” album on Emarcy records. It is his 6th Grammy and 25th nomination. He was also nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association as “arranger of the year”. His new CD “Nights on Earth” on Horizontal and Art of Groove records will be released on 7 October.

The wide scope of his works demonstrates an extraordinary understanding of many musical languages. He has written scores of compositions and arrangements for big band, extended compositions for chamber and symphonic orchestra settings and his jazz composing credits read like a who’s who of the best modern instrumentalists, singers and composers. Heralded by critics as a master of contemporary idioms, composer and arranger Vince Mendoza has become a primary choice for the world’s most sophisticated contemporary musicians.

Born in 1961 in Norwalk, Connecticut, Mendoza began learning classical guitar and piano from an early age. His musical influences ran from Bach to Aretha Franklin to Henry Mancini. However, discovering Miles Davis, Gil Evans, and later, Igor Stravinsky and Alban Berg gave him a further complex perspective of the construction of musical forms and ideas. Taking up the trumpet during high school, he later earned a degree in music composition at Ohio State University, before moving to Los Angeles. The music of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter became a strong influence on his big band writing. He began working in the studios, composing music for television, while continuing to add to his extensive body of work written for big band. He completed his post-graduate composition and conducting studies at the University of Southern California. During this time he met a kindred spirit in drummer Peter Erskine, who included him in his mixed ensemble recording, “Transition” on Denon records. Mendoza contributed several compositions to this recording as well as on some of Erskine’s subsequent recordings. They have since become frequent collaborators.

His early solo albums on Blue Note Records, “Start Here” and “Instructions Inside”, were critical triumphs that featured such artists as John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Ralph Towner, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine and others. “Start Here” was voted one of Jazziz Magazine’s “Top Picks” and Mendoza was recognized as “Best Composer/Arranger” by Swing Journal’s critics poll in Japan. Through his profile-building stint as guest arranger and conductor of the WDR Big Band, based in Cologne, Germany, Mendoza became widely known in Europe as a multi-talented composer arranger with a deep understanding of contemporary styles. His work on the CD “The Vince Mendoza / Arif Mardin Project: Jazzpaña” with the WDR Big Band, brought him a Grammy nomination for “best instrumental arrangement”. Since then, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden, Andy Narell, Kurt Elling and John Abercrombie have prominently featured Vince Mendoza’s compositions and arrangements on their albums.

Mendoza’s work as an arranger can also be heard on many expansive jazz projects from the mid-1980s onwards, that include work with the Yellowjackets, Al DiMeola, Gino Vanelli, Joe Zawinul, Mike Stern, Kyle Eastwood and the GRP All Star Big Band, among many others. His television music has also received nominations for an Emmy Award, while his music for the “World Cup” closing ceremony was broadcast worldwide.

There is no end to the versatility of his skills or opportunities to exercise them. Mendoza has written commissioned compositions and arrangements for world-renowned classical and jazz groups that include the Turtle Island String Quartet, the Debussy Trio, the L.A. Guitar Quartet, the Metropole Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the BBC. His music was featured at the Berlin Jazz Festival. He has performed major works at the Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals. And he actively conducts concerts of his music in Europe, Japan, Scandinavia, and the U.K.

His CD “Epiphany” is a stunning set of compositions for the London Symphony Orchestra and jazz soloists. Effortlessly combining his beautifully crafted orchestral arrangements, strong melodic compositions, extended forms and inspired jazz soloists, this is an album only Mendoza could conceive and execute with such grace. Joined by old friends, Abercrombie, Brecker, Erskine, Lovano and Kenny Wheeler, as well as the sublime bass work of Marc Johnson and piano of John Taylor, Mendoza sets the scene of each piece with the orchestra, allowing these seven great jazz “voices” to deliver the next layer of emotive harmony and expression. With such a huge palette of both sounds and sonorities the results conjure up strong narratives. Mendoza’s skill for “casting” the hard-edged brilliance of Michael Brecker for the harder tempos alongside the soft lyricism of Joe Lovano for the poetic pulse of quieter songs defines his huge talents as a truly modern composer, conductor and arranger.

Mendoza’s alliance with the Metropole Orchestra of the Netherlands began in 1995. The Metropole is in its 61st year and is the only full time symphonic Pop/Jazz orchestra in the world today. He is now the Music Director and Chief conductor of the Metropole and is frequently seen working with them at concerts, festivals and recordings with the likes of Elvis Costello, Herbie Hancock, Ivan Lins, Al Jarreau and more.

Managing to combine his own sophisticated solo work with widely acknowledged skills as a sympathetic vocal arranger has seen him earn the respect and ear of both the serious minded jazz and classical audience as well as that of discerning contemporary music fans and artists. Mendoza’s arranging has appeared on many critically acclaimed projects that include dozens of albums with song writing legends such as Björk, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, Sting and Joni Mitchell. He has 6 Grammy awards and 25 nominations. among them the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for his beautiful arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Both sides now” and again in 2004 for the epoch-defining song “Woodstock”.

The latter was one of many symphonic arrangements that Mendoza wrote for Mitchell’s ‘final’ studio album, ‘Travelogue’, which in itself offered the singular challenge of scoring selected highlights of Mitchell’s multi-faceted and deeply emotional songs from her 40-year career. For this project Mendoza drew on many of his most important stylistic references, from Gil Evans to Brahms and Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky and Gyorgy Ligeti. And once again he found himself working with the cream of the jazz world, including Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock among a top-draw supporting cast of musicians featured on this album. His skill for creating classic, sophisticated string arrangements also led to his orchestral score on the multi-million selling album “Swing When You’re Winning” by the enfant terrible of British pop, Robbie Williams. He was the orchestral voice behind the score to Lars van Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” featuring Björk, as well as the dreamy orchestrations on her recent CD titled “Vespertine.”

Mendoza’s CD, Blauklang, is his 7th as a leader. It combines jazz, classical, and modern art to form an ambitious and beautiful work. It features Nguyen Le on Guitar, Peter Erskine, Lars Danielsson and a mixed ensemble of strings and winds . Mendoza shifts his focus back to his own compositions on the new CD Nights on Earth (due in September 2011) is his most personal and compelling project to date. For Nights on Earth Mendoza recruits an all-star cast of longtime collaborators like guitarists John Abercrombie, John Scofield and Nguyen Le, drummer Peter Erskine, percussionist Luis Conte, organist Larry Goldings, steel drummer Andy Narell, pianists Kenny Werner and Alan Pasqua, saxophonists Bob Mintzer and Joe Lovano. He is also joined by such new friends as Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, Malian kora player and singer Tom Diakite, Argentinian bandoneon master Hector del Curto,Algerian drummer Karim Ziad, French saxophonist Stéphane Guillaume and young American jazz stars in bassist Christian McBride, drummer Greg Hutchinson and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. According to All about Jazz Mendoza “daringly expands the vernacular by including elements of abstract impressionism, romanticism and a highly unorthodox palette to position him as the clear and natural successor to the late Gil Evans.”

 After her spell-binding 2016 performance with the SSO, Sarah Slean returns to weave magic.

Over the course of her 15 year career Sarah Slean has made eight albums, starred in two short films and a movie musical, published two volumes of poetry, held exhibitions of her paintings, written two string quartets, and shared the stage with five of the country’s leading orchestras. During that time she was nominated for three Junos, two Geminis, and her records have been released in over 10 countries world-wide. 2002’s Atlantic Records debut Night Bugs, co-produced by Hawksley Workman, delivered a bona fide radio hit in “Sweet Ones”, a song that has since been covered twice on Canadian Idol. The release of 2004’s critically acclaimed Day One heralded the beginning of a promising career in France, garnering national radio play, several key festival slots, national tours and an appearance on the hit television show Taratata – as well as tours in Germany and Sweden. Sarah’s music has also been featured on both big and small screens in the US (Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, Party of Five, Murder in Small Town X). 2008’s The Baroness debuted at #1 on iTunes Canada and spawned three national tours, winning accolades and support slots from such artists as Alanis Morissette and Rufus Wainwright. An EP of its outtakes entitled The Baroness Redecorates showcases Sarah’s remarkable talent as a string arranger – an aspect of her art that she continues to develop on the new double album Land & Sea, for which Slean has penned four original scores for 21-piece string orchestra. With the production might of renowned Canadian songwriter Joel Plaskett on “Land” and award-winning film composer Jonathan Goldsmith (Away from Her, Casino Jack, Take This Waltz) on “Sea”, the resulting ambitious double-disc plays on contrasting aesthetics and perspectives. In Sarah’s words, “Land is a celebration of all that is worldly and temporal; the human dramas we participate in, the struggles, the unusual, at times uncomfortable wonder of being a separate, individual consciousness. Sea emerges from that within us which is eternal… the sense of a timeless unified consciousness. It is the dawn of a clear perception that the universe, in all its staggering diversity, is one.”

“an awe-inspiring panorama of a mature poet and musician”

– The Toronto Star