Wednesday, June 5, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 144


 
 









 

Jones carries latest album with sincere effort

By Jason C. Consolacion
The Daily Cougar

Talented? Definitely. Established? Not quite yet. Potential? Full of it.

Norah Jones may be cursed with the inevitable label of "the next big thing," but the difference between her and the other "next big things" is she
actually possesses the goods necessary to become a very influential element in today's music.

Her sweet blend of jazz, blues, country and folk gives her an edge that other female artists lack. Forget her inevitable talent as a singer, pianist
and songwriter - she's unique. She doesn't succumb to pop hooks, flashy outfits and anything else the Britney Spears/Alicia Keys public aches
for. Jones keeps it real.

Rock/blues performer John Mayer calls Jones "living proof that you don't need to buy re-issue albums to hear good music anymore." This is
true, mainly because of Jones' ability to mix her old school influences with the style of today's musicians.

Her Blue Note Records debut, Come Away With Me features songs written by herself, as well as tunes written by her fellow musicians, and a
handful of covers.

The first single "Don't Know Why" is so butter it's a wonder why it didn't come with a few pieces of toast. Her sweet sultry voice glides over a
soothing guitar/keyboard instrumentation that reeks of such influences as Carole King and Ray Charles.

To get an idea of what this 22-year-old sounds like, picture a voice like King's mixed with the rough edges of Janis Joplin and the elegance of
Ella Fitzgerald. To get an idea of Jones' musical style, take elements of Charles, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson and John Coltrane and roll it up
into one everlasting gobstopper of ear candy.

Come Away With Me is quite the mellow album - perhaps the only thing stopping Jones from reaching superstar status so quickly. However,
the artist couldn't care less. Her desire to be a student of the old school directs her musical path like a religion.

"(Music of today) just seems too cheesy to me," she says. "I grew up listening to the music my mother played. Carole King, Ray Charles,
Coltrane and Miles ... and a lot of Willie Nelson."

Jones attended Dallas' Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where she honed her skills as a jazz pianist. After
playing in a few different groups, she eventually hooked up with Jesse Harris and Lee Alexander - two musicians who have become staples in
Jones' entourage.

Together, they wrote songs and played as much as they could in jazz, blues and folk clubs around the country. Eventually, an independent
album by the name of First Sessions was released in 2001. After Blue Note got a hold of the record and after producers heard Jones behind a
mic, work on Come Away With Me commenced.

A Harris original stands out on the album. "One Flight Down" mixes a beautiful '70s-style melody with poignant lyrics about the love of music
and love of humanity. Jones sounds groovy on the keyboard and pristine on vocals.

To avoid snores because of her slow, laid-back approach to Come Away With Me, Jones captivates the listener by her electrifying
performances on songs like "Shoot The Moon" and the Carmichael/Washington cover "The Nearness of You." The former, written by Harris,
once again shows Jones' ability to alternate carrying the song between her voice and her piano playing while "Nearness" sets the artist next to
her influences like Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. To put it quite simply, "The Nearness of You" is a classic jazz performance.

A factoid Jones tends to keep hush in the interest of her own professional climb is that she is the daughter of heralded Indian sitarist Ravi
Shankar. And though some personal issues may stand in the way of that connection, it's obvious why Jones is so talented at such a young
age.

Come Away With Me won't turn Jones into a superstar, but it certainly does prove to listeners that good music seems to be making its way back
to the mainstream. We can only hope that these young new artists don't fall victim to the curse of MTV's TRL. Jones shows evidence that she
won't.

"The pop world is cool, but I never really thought of myself as part of it or wanting to be a part of it," she said. "(Blue Note Records is) not trying to
dress me up, they're not trying to do things like that. I feel like I'm sort of separate from that, actually."

Ah, yes ... keepin' it real.
 
 
 
 
 

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