Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Virtuoso Dies Too Soon

From the Boston Globe:

Mindy Jostyn was not content with just one musical instrument. Whether she was jamming with a pop star in a packed arena or playing solo in a small club, she played everything from the violin and harmonica to the mandolin and accordion.
For her many fans, however, it was the clarity of her voice and the directness of her words that made the strongest impression.
''When she played, she glowed," said singer-songwriter Kate Taylor, a friend and collaborator. ''Audiences absolutely loved her."
Ms. Jostyn died March 10 in Hudson, N.Y., following a brief illness. She was 48.
Ms. Jostyn once lived in Wellesley and attended schools in the Boston area. At 11, she organized an all-girl band called The Tigers. After playing with a few other groups, she helped form The Cyclone Rangers, a New York-based electric country and cover band. She got her big break in 1989 when ''Saturday Night Live" bandleader G.E. Smith hired her to play harmonica in a sketch with host Dolly Parton.
Big gigs followed.
Smith brought her back to ''SNL" to play with musical guest Billy Joel, and her career as a ''sideman" began in earnest. Ms. Jostyn stayed on with Joel's band during their 1989 ''Storm Front" world tour. In the 1990s, she played and sang on tour with Joe Jackson, John Mellencamp, Cindy Lauper, and Carly Simon. She also played at various points with Pat Benatar, Shania Twain, Jon Bon Jovi, and John Waite.
In a radio interview in 1998, Ms. Jostyn recalled the sudden jump in her career. ''I had gone straight from playing in bars to suddenly stepping out on stage the first time at the Centrum in Worcester, Mass., to a crowd of 20,000 roaring people, and it was frightening," she said. ''And as exciting as it is to perform that way, there's really nothing quite like playing to a small crowd, because that way you're making contact with individuals and you can feel more personal rapport."
After a decade of playing backup, Ms. Jostyn launched her solo career. In addition to playing folk clubs and festivals even when she was 81⁄2 months pregnant, she released four albums: ''Five Miles from Hope," ''Cedar Lane," ''in His eyes," and ''Blue Stories."

She was nominated for top New Contemporary Folk Act for Boston Music Awards in 1997.
Her solo albums featured artists, including musical legends Carly Simon and Donald Fagen, she worked with during her years as a backup singer and musician.
Influenced by blues, folk, and other music, Ms. Jostyn was an original, said Scott Alarik, a musician who has performed with Ms. Jostyn and writes about folk music for the Globe. ''Mindy was the genuine article," he said. ''She was a superb musician, true virtuoso with a great sense of groove melody."
Ms. Jostyn, who was ''preternaturally hip," used her musical talents to forge a bond with her audience, Alarik said. ''She was very funny, often in a satirical way," he said. ''But she never picked out anyone or any group for ridicule. She had a way of making you laugh and think and care, all at the same time."
Ms. Jostyn's humor ranged from the socially conscious to the confessional. In ''Too Easy," she reflected ironically on how abnormally well her love relationship seemed to be going: ''By now, we should've had a least one good fight / And I should've run into your evil twin brother / By now, the future shouldn't be looking so bright / And you shouldn't be such a hit with my mother."
Taylor recalled her ''tenderness on the piano, the sighing of her violin, how she could rock the entire block with her fiddle."
Ms. Jostyn, said Taylor, ''was the embodiment of joy."

Born in Long Island City to a showbiz-inclined family, Ms. Jostyn split her childhood between Wellesley and San Jose, Calif. She attended four colleges in four years: the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Berklee School of Music, California Institute of the Arts, and Principia College, but never received a degree.
Ms. Jostyn's brother, Jay of Cambridge, said her family was her passion. Ms. Jostyn was a spiritual person, and her lyrics often reflected a transcendent perspective. In ''Common Ground" she sang: ''Our souls search on forever / For heavenward they're bound / Our bodies find their home at last / In common ground."

As a (amateur) musician, I revere anyone who can play 5 instruments. But "preturnaturally hip" too. Whew.

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