No­rah Jones re­turns to the pi­ano in new work

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in New York

The short­hand for No­rah Jones’ new Day Breaks disc is that it’s a “re­turn to roots”.

Like most such sound bites, that’s sim­plis­tic. Yet the jazzy, pi­ano-based vibe is closer to Jones’ block­buster Come Away With Me de­but than any­thing she’s made since, giv­ing her record com­pany some 25 mil­lion rea­sons to be ex­cited.

That’s the stag­ger­ing num­ber of discs that 2002 al­bum sold, its sooth­ing sound a balm for trou­bled times, earn­ing the new­comer a fist­ful of Gram­mys. Now she’s 37, a mother of two. The new mu­sic re­flects her jazz train­ing with more chal­leng­ing ar­range­ments and an all-star band of play­ers.

It also puts Jones back in front of a pi­ano. It has been awhile since she’s writ­ten songs us­ing the in­stru­ment she was trained on. There are bet­ter pi­ano play­ers, and bet­ter singers, but Jones com­bin­ing the two cre­ates an in­deli­ble sound.

“It’s more me than when I’m just singing,” she says.

Her path to Day Breaks be­gan with a 2014 con­cert in Wash­ing­ton cel­e­brat­ing her Blue Note record la­bel’s 75th an­niver­sary. She per­formed I’ve Got to See You Again from her first al­bum with a for­mi­da­ble band in­clud­ing Wayne Shorter on sax­o­phone, Brian Blade on drums and John Pat­i­tucci on bass.

“It was ut­terly riv­et­ing,” says Don Was, veteran pro­ducer and Blue Note pres­i­dent. “It didn’t sound like any­thing you’d heard be­fore and gave you goose bumps. I cer­tainly made clear that I wished we had a record­ing of it.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence sat­is­fied Jones, too. She’d been lis­ten­ing to a lot of jazz-soul record­ings from the 1960s and 1970s and thought the new songs she’d been writ­ing would work well with Shorter and those play­ers, who form the back­bone of the mu­sic on the new disc.

Since Come Away With Me, some­times it has seemed Jones has been deter­mined to make every type of mu­sic ex­cept that which made her fa­mous. She’s dab­bled in coun­try, recorded Everly Broth­ers duets with Bil­lie Jo Arm­strong and, most mem­o­rably, col­lab­o­rated with Dan­ger Mouse on the sear­ing 2012 breakup al­bum Lit­tle Bro­ken Hearts.

Some­times that’s how artists re­spond to a big suc­cess; the other ex­treme is re­peat­ing them­selves end­lessly. Jones says it wasn’t a cal­cu­lated strat­egy.

“It was more that I was starved for some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she says. “All of a sud­den, I was get­ting into coun­try mu­sic and I was lis­ten­ing to blue­grass and Dolly Par­ton. I was lis­ten­ing to all sorts of mu­sic that in­ter­ested me and made me want to try dif­fer­ent things.”

GETTY IMAGES

No­rah Jones re­turns to the spot­light with a new al­bum.

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