Sara Colman: Ink On A Pin – A Celebration Of Joni Mitchell

Birmingham Conservatoire alumna covers Joni Mitchell songs in a way that is both sympathetic and individual


My introduction to Colman came with her gig at the 2019 Teignmouth Jazz and Blues Festival and her previous album What We’re Made Of. Both gig and album featured songs by Joni Mitchell, and Colman was working on a project comprising exclusively Mitchell material. Here it is.

If Sara or anyone else wants to claim that Mitchell’s work can easily bear comparison with that of any other songwriter you care to name they’ll get no argument from me. Although Mitchell came to notice as a folk-influenced artist her interest in jazz has rarely been far below the surface, and she famously collaborated with Charles Mingus (or he with her) on what would prove to be his last project.

For those wondering, the album title is a quote from a Mitchell song not included here, Blue: “Songs are like tattoos … Ink on a pin / Underneath the skin / An empty space to fill in.”

Colman says that she discovered Mitchell’s work when she was 19, studying at Birmingham Conservatoire and “a little bit lonely and hungry for inspiration other than the classical music that surrounded me and the pop that somehow wasn’t enough”.

Her love and understanding of these songs is evident in every note and phrase. Her tone varies from sensitive and subtle to powerful and emotional, and she pays equal due attention to the sound and meaning of the lyrics. The elegant and appropriate arrangements by her, her regular colleague Rebecca Nash and other members of the band, often afford new perspectives on the songs, and there is some pleasing solo work by Nash and Pursglove.

The choice of repertoire is a nice balance of the almost inevitable (such as Woodstock) and the less well known. Colman brings something different and personal to each of them whilst evoking and respecting Mitchell’s spirit. Clearly a labour of love, the album was over all too soon.

Court And Spark; Chelsea Morning; Amelia; The Flight Tonight*; Down To You; Woodstock; My Old Man+ (34.47)
Colman (v); Percy Pursglove (flh); Rebecca Nash (p); Steve Banks (g); Jonathan Silk (d);  Beth Bellis, Ning-ning Lee (vn, v); Natalie Mason (vla, v); Katy Nagle (clo, v). Box, Wiltshire, January 2019 except * (Birmingham Conservatoire March 2019) and + (Birmingham Conservatoire June 2021).
Stoney Lane Records SLR 1988