Arts and Entertainment

Joni Takanikos releases new CD with an event in Langley

Joni Takanikos will hold a CD release performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22 at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley with pianist Robert Marsanyi and friends. Her new album is titled, “Love In a Mist, Devil In a Bush.”  - Patricia Duff / The Record
Joni Takanikos will hold a CD release performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22 at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley with pianist Robert Marsanyi and friends. Her new album is titled, “Love In a Mist, Devil In a Bush.”
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

With some sweet standards, a release and a tour, a singer’s dreams come true.

“Love In a Mist, Devil in a Bush” is the newest release from Langley singer Joni Takanikos. The album, recorded by Robbie Cribbs at Sound Trap Studios in Freeland, is a compilation of mostly standards arranged by Robert Marsanyi, who accompanies Takanikos on piano.

“For me the standards are a touchstone,” Takanikos said, who began the record about two years ago.

“My father used to play all the big band stuff when I was a kid. Then in my 20s, I discovered Billie Holiday, and she was like a friend to me.”

Takanikos is continuing her Mystic Lipstick Tour with this recording, a tour that also began two years ago when she performed some of the material at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters in Langley and which she takes to Ireland in March. “Mystic Lipstick” is one of the songs on the CD and was written by Irish songwriter Jimmy MacCarthy. With Marsanyi on the organ, Takanikos finds just the right timbre and softness to make this classic love ballad soar. In fact, Takanikos has the kind of voice that is at once soulful and a little groovy without trying too hard, and proves a perfect fit for many of the songs chosen for this album, including the original title track.

Marsanyi said that when they were working early on on the song "Don't Fence Me In," it was a song she remembered from her father. He saw that she was good at finding a personal connection to music which comes through when she sings slowly and with lots of feeling.

"I worked with the same approach: Arrangements that emphasize the differences between Joni and a traditional jazz vocalist doing the same material, the quietness of her singing voice and the flexibility of the timing," he said.

Together they decided the idea was to release recordings without much editing; clean and quiet artifact-free presentations.

Here are versions of “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Good Morning Heartache,” “All of Me,” “God Bless the Child,” “Them There Eyes,” and “Don’t Fence Me In,” among others, on which Marsanyi’s arrangements beautifully bolster Takanikos’ imperfect but compelling style. She’s not afraid to wear the heart of these songs on her sleeve. They succeeded with that idea they both had for the album — to capture their performance with all the flaws intact.

“It’s simple, bare-bones and it needed to be real,” she said of the recording.

The singer and pianist have had a rapport for years, having performed together several times, including at the Local Artists Series at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts twice in 2008 and 2009.

“Robert is such an amazing arranger and we have an affinity with each other. With him, I felt like I could do these songs, even if Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald recorded them, too,” Takanikos said.

“I dare to dream,” she added with a smile.

Another excellent arrangement on the album is Marsanyi’s and Takanikos’ version of “Over the Rainbow,” which is an entirely appropriate choice for the project, considering the record seemed at one time out of the singer’s reach. But thanks to benefactor Sharon Shoemaker, a Whidbey Island artist herself, Takanikos was able to see the dream realized. It goes to show just how important arts patronage is, she said.

“This community has been this beautiful mystical parent for me who continues to feed me,” Takanikos said.

“And like any parent who raises a child to take their gifts out into the world, it’s true for me that I want to take what has been given me out into the wider world,” she said.

In Ireland, Takanikos has lined up a connection with another Whidbey Island resident in Cork where she’ll stay until she finds her bearings. There she hopes to start her tour at a local pub to which she already has a line.

Now with YouTube available, perhaps her reputation will precede her. Takanikos has downloaded two songs to the ubiquitous website, “Bonny Portmore” and “Mystic Lipstick.”

She also plans to do a limited vinyl edition of “Love In a Mist, Devil in a Bush.”

“There’s a warmth to that sound that you can’t get on a digital recording,” she said. Plus she likes the low-fi quality of vinyl records, and the fact that her listeners could sit and read her liner notes and admire the album cover, a painting for which the record is named, created by local artist Gina Simpson.

Takanikos and Marsanyi will hold a CD release evening of performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22 at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley. They’ll perform, along with musician Timothy Hull, host David Ossman and Max Cole-Takanikos reading a bit of poetry.

A suggested donation of $10 to $20 is encouraged. Call 360-969-1312 for further info.

Takanikos will also play a solo show at Living Green in Langley at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19.

Check out the Mystic Lipstick Tour's Facebook page for up-to-date info about the "Love in a Mist, Devil in a Bush" and Takanikos' plans for the Ireland tour.

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