Bob Dylan’s music in a recital hall? By a jazz big band? At the university from which Dylan dropped out?
Yes, yes and yes: Wisconsin vocalist Janet Planet performed big-band versions of Dylan tunes Tuesday with the University of Minnesota’s student Jazz Ensemble I at Ted Mann Concert Hall.
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” had sort of a Steely Dan-ish vibe. Planet showcased hipster phrasing on “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and a Dylan-like cadence to her singing on “Song to Woody.” She channeled a Maria Muldaur-like Southern blues sass on “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and Mark Knopfler with an Irish lilt on “Boots of Spanish Leather.”
But the unquestioned high point was a jump swing reading of “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat” that would be perfect for the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Many of the arrangements were written by Planet's husband, Oshkosh, Wis. saxophonist Tom Washatka, who also performed Tuesday. In 2010, Planet released a CD of Dylan tunes done with a big band. Tuesday was the premiere of some more Dylan tunes.
Planet, however, seemed to think the program’s highlight was “Yes or No,” a Wayne Shorter instrumental featuring her husband on sax. “That was hot. I hadn’t heard that one,” she announced after the performance by Washatka and 17 student musicians.
“Weren’t you paying attention at soundcheck?” asked bandleader Dean Sorenson, the U’s director of jazz studies.
“I wasn’t paying attention,” Planet confessed. “I was doing my hair.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post confused Planet with Van Morrison's former wife and muse, a singer also named Janet Planet.