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Few artists have generated as much press in recent memory as Ms. Norah Jones. No fewer than five thoughtful reviews have been published in this magazine alone . A unifying theme found in all criticism is the question of whether the music Jones plays is jazz. This might be similar to the question of whether the music Josh Groban or Andrea Bocchelli is classical.
In keeping with the ecumenical spirit of this magazine, I submit that it makes little, or better yet, no difference what music of this high quality is called, as long it can be heard.
That said, what light does Jones shed on this genre query? For her own part, Jones does little to clarify this question. She has delicately classified her music as "mock soft cock rock." Her approach and repertoire cast her in the same nominal group as Holly Cole, Diana Krall, Patricia Barber, and Cassandra Wilson. All of these artists maintain a large pop component in their art. Ms. Jones uses an instrumental combination most similar to Cassandra Wilson. Jesse Harris's National Steel on "Seven Years" and Tony Sherr's slide guitar on bassist Lee Alexander?s "Lonestar" echo Wilson?s use of the same. But where Wilson?s use exudes a basic, organic quality, Jones?s displays a more refined addition to her sound?like Déjà vu, but not really. "Hank Williams?s "Cold Cold Heart" wears anything but a honky tonk ballad vest while Hoagy Carmichael?s "The Nearness of You" sounds as familiar as a warm coat.
Norah Jones?s voice and piano style are also worth consideration. Exotic and childlike, her voice is playfully seductive, always sounding like it is winking at you. Her piano style is all block chords and octaves, everything carefully chosen. I suspect that with experience, her piano talents will deepen as have Diana Krall?s (as evidenced on her Live in Paris). This music is immediately likeable and Jones?s art is readily accessible and digestible. This music is worthwhile because it is Spring-fresh and inviting.
Track Listing: Don't Know Why; Seven Years; Cold Cold Heart; Feelin' The Same Way;
Come Away With Me; Shoot The Moon; Turn Me On; Lonestar; I've Got To
See You Again; Painter Song; One Flight Downy; Nightingale; The Long
Day Is Over; The Nearness Of You. (Total Time: 45:54).
Personnel: Norah Jones- Keyboards, Vocals; Lee Alexander- Bass; Jesse Harris.
Adam Levy, Kevin Breit, Tony Sherr- Guitars; Dan Rieser, Brian Blade,
Kenny Wollensen- Drums; Sam Yahel- Organ; Rob Burger- Pump Organ;
Jenny Scheinman- Violin.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.