Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Convincing in her storytellin' role, Norah Jones sings popular ballads with an emphasis on the blues. Her delicate voice sparkles gently alongside the band's twangy guitar chorus and straightforward rhythm section. She accompanies on piano. The title song, resembling a spiritual, beckons the listener to waltz away with her to a place where life will be better: better than the tension-filled surroundings we face all too often. Her original, the song belies Jones' fragile persona and warm soul. Country ballads allow her natural innocence to shine through intimately. Employing multi-tracking, she blends consonant vocal harmonies to most of the tunes. Only a few veer away from the country music field. "I've Got to See You Again" stands out for its exciting syncopated rhythm and deeply romantic mood. It's a thrilling Latin affair that makes you want to tango. "Turn Me On" allows Jones to apply a tiny bit of vocal grit to an otherwise satin-smooth session. The album's musicianship is superb. Jones' "Nightingale" winds its way along country roads in a folk song setting. So does "The Long Day Is Over," which expresses the meaning of her lyrics quite well. Finally, she ends the album with a jazz standard. Paring it down to just voice and piano, Jones, 23, demonstrates a veteran's understanding of how to communicate with her audience. In her Blue Note debut, Jones is effective, intimate, and persuasive. She's got the world on a string." -AllAboutJazz
"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." -AllAboutJazz
"Okay - first things first. Yes, in my opinion, the strikingly beautiful, vaguely exotic Norah Jones is worthy of the buzz and publicity that she is receiving. But is she a jazz singer? Probably not but I don't know why anyone should care. Her singing is certainly jazz influenced. Jones does not use her lovely voice as a horn at the expense of lyrics. Jones is a natural storyteller and the stories that she chose to tell on her impressive debut,Come Away With Me, have a distinctly country quality, including the Hank Williams' classic "Cold, Cold Heart." Most of the other selections are originals by bassist Lee Alexander, guitarist Jesse Harris or by Jones herself. I am not a fan of 'originals,' since I find many of them to be without qualitative substance, but Alexander, Harris and Jones each has a strong gift for melody, simple yet elegant progressions, and evocative lyrics. I'm especially impressed with Alexander's "Lonestar," a song that I'm sure other singers will rapidly discover. Jones' own title track "Come Away With Me" is intimate and most beautiful. Hoagy Carmichael 's beloved standard "The Nearness of You," is included. Jones solo piano accompaniment (she has a degree in jazz piano from the University of North Texas) on this bewhiskered evergreen is admirable.
Jones is backed seamlessly by some highly regarded jazz talent, including guitarists Adam Levy and Bill Frisell, drummers Brian Blade and Dan Rieser, organist Sam Yahel , accordionist Rob Burger, and violinistJenny Scheinman , amongst others. Jones plays piano on all tracks. Harris and Alexander also play on every track and, as noted, serve as the chief songwriters. There's a touch of Rickie Lee Jones and maybe a little Billie Holiday in Norah Jones' honey-and-smoke voice, as well as the quality and vulnerability of Eva Cassidy . Jones' voice is captivating and is the most distinctive attribute of her singing. Another notable attribute is her natural, relaxed phrasing which represents an assuredness and maturity not often found in 23-year old singers.
Duke Ellington, who reveled in diversity, often employed the phrase "beyond category" when referring to individuals that rose above the labels that we so often place on our artists. Norah Jones is truly beyond category and she is without genre. She resides where the lines between country, folk, pop, rock and jazz are blurred to the point of erasure. I get the distinct impression that she can sing anything'folk, blues, pop, jazz, R&B, gospel'and make it sound like it was the only music that mattered.
In a recent interview, Norah Jones stated, "I don't know if the music in my CD can be classified as jazz or even pop. Hopefully fans of both can appreciate it. In the end, it's all about the songs. I think they're all very strong songs." I agree and wish to add that Jones is a most welcome addition to the growing ranks of new, young vocalists who sing in tune, who tell the story and who choose interesting material. Jones apparent early success is not simply a triumph of savvy management and publicity. She has much to say and says it with unquestioned skills as a singer and songwriter. And, best of all, as Cole Porter might have said, Norah Jones' voice has gossamer wings.
From Hank Williams to Hoagy Carmichael, I highly recommend Norah Jones' debut CD." -AllAboutJazz
"One can't help being curious about the contents of Norah Jones ' music collection after listening to her debut, "Come Away With Me". They would probably not be far off in assuming she grew up singing into various makeshift microphones around her household alongside the vocals of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald , Joni Mitchell , and Sarah Mclachlan.
Despite the album's various jazz standards, one should not be so naïve to classify Norah Jones as a jazz singer. Hardcore jazz traditionalists, snobs, and academics may deny her jazz credibility for her folk infusion, however, her rendition of The Nearness of You would have made any of the songs predecessors proud. Regardless of how listeners may argue and classify the roots of her musical stylings, the consistent adjective in all of these debates should be "spectacular".
Jones succeeds in making listeners feel as though they are eavesdropping on an experience that ultimately, seems private. The innocence in her voice and purity of her instruments make adult listeners feel both pedophilic and guilty for falling in love with her.
Her voice stretches across a bed of lyrics like a full size sheet on king size bed - just barely making it and yet successfully pulling it off. We should reserve being more critical of lesser talents." -AllAboutJazz
Rolling Stone (12/26/02, p.104) - Ranked #8 in Rolling Stone's list of 2002's "10 Best Debuts"
Rolling Stone (3/28/02, pp.68,70) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "...A quietly captivating triumph of torch song[s]..."
Entertainment Weekly (12/20-27/02, p.128) - Ranked #10 on EW's list of 2002's "Albums of the Year"
Entertainment Weekly (3/8/02, p.73) - "...Jones' album has the lope of Western swing and the flow of a good live set....Her voice is supple and precise, her touch on piano lovely..." - Rating: A-
Down Beat (June 2002, pp.63-64) - 3.5 out of 5 stars - "...Jones delivers...multigenre cross-cultural eclecticism....It is a voice containing seductive mysteries and also the most exposed human vulnerabilities..."
JazzTimes (6/02, p.88) - "...Ranks among the most bracing and beautiful in recent memory..."
Vibe (4/02, p.168) - 3.5 discs out of 5 - "...She allows a pared-down, semi-acoustic backdrop to showcase her lilting soprano....an auspicious debut..."
Mojo (Publisher) - Ranked #74 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "[S]eductive, mysterious songs, slouched jazzily around the rhythm, and slipped in a lonesome touch of twang."
Mojo (Publisher) (April 2002, p.110) - "...Jones' debut is a calming delight, a delicate acoustic dance that pulls country, blues and jazz into a gorgeous, soft-edged rootsy singer-songwriter world...Soothing and substantial."
Personnel: Norah Jones (vocals, piano, Wurlitzer piano); Jesse Harris, Kevin Breit (acoustic & electric guitars); Tony Scherr (acoustic guitar, slide guitar); Adam Levy, Bill Frisell (electric guitar); Adam Rogers (guitar); Jenny Scheinman (violin); Sam Yahel (Hammond B-3 organ); Rob Burger (organ); Lee Alexander (bass); Brian Blade (drums, percussion); Dan Reiser, Kenny Wollesen (drums).
Producers: Arif Mardin, Norah Jones, Jay Newland, Craig Street.
Recorded at Sorcerer Sound, New York, New York and Allaire Studios, Shokan, New York.
Norah Jones won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
COME AWAY WITH ME won the 2003 Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical).
"Don't Know Why" won the 2003 Grammy Awards for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Arif Mardin won the 2003 Grammy Award for Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical).
A direct descendant from the pedigree of one of the 20th century's virtuosos, Norah Jones might not be on such a lofty artistic level as her dad Ravi Shankar, but certainly inherited some musical intuition from him. With nary a sitar nor raga within earshot, the young newcomer sounds very much an assimilated, western, 21st century pop-jazz singer. One thing that separates her from the pack is Ms. Jones' own piano stylings--not flashy, but deftly doubling or echoing her voice--that discreetly act as the glue holding together these airy, delicate, and beautiful arrangements.
But the centerpiece is certainly the 22-year-old's confident-beyond-her-years vocal delivery in addition to a precise diction and velvety tone. Shades of Nina Simone, vintage Phoebe Snow, and a less beatnik Rickie Lee Jones are evident throughout as the young siren coolly sashays through mostly new material by guitarist-songwriter Jesse Harris (formerly of Once Blue) and a few choice covers. Veteran producer Arif Mardin frames a most notable debut with a translucent touch, and appearances by jazz heroes Bill Frisell and Brian Blade gild the lily.
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