Jones, Norah


Jones, Norah
▪ 2004

      In pop music the surprise of the year came at the 2003 Grammy Awards when a new star, singer-pianist Norah Jones, and her first CD, Come Away with Me, gathered the glory, taking eight trophies, including album of the year, best new artist, and song of the year (“Don't Know Why,” written by her guitarist Jesse Harris). Even before Jones's Grammy triumphs, her album had reached number one on American best-seller lists and had sold six million copies worldwide. It was an exciting ride to fame for the 23-year-old Jones, who just two years earlier had been singing for small audiences in obscure New York City clubs.

      Moreover, Jones was the direct opposite of the big-voiced, flamboyant divas who usually dominated pop music. Instead of loud, lavish productions, Come Away with Me offered a simple, intimate music, accompanied by a small combo that included unamplified guitars. Her voice was girlish and fragile, conveying personal moods from melancholy to whimsy; critics remarked on her music's “ethereal beauty.” Her style fused jazz, country, and soul in disparate Hank Williams, John D. Loudermilk, and Hoagy Carmichael songs, and most of the album was composed by Jones, Harris, and her bassist, Lee Alexander. The girlish voice and delicacy were deceptive, for Jones had the maturity to master the craft of her music. When early recording sessions proved overproduced, she threw away the results and started over with a new producer.

      Perhaps good music was in Norah Jones's DNA: her mother was American concert producer Sue Jones, and her father was Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. Jones was born on March 30, 1979, in New York City. She lived with her mother and grew up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where her mother's collection of jazz, blues, country, and classical albums was an early inspiration for her own eclectic musical taste. Jones was a jazz piano and vocal novice at Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas when she first achieved national recognition by winning three Down Beat Student Music Awards. After two years of studying jazz at North Texas State University, Jones moved to Manhattan in 1999. There she sang and played in the underground music scene, in a funk-fusion group and with her own combos, replacing jazz standards with original songs. Bruce Lundvall, president of the Blue Note label, heard just three of her warm, soft vocals on a tape before he signed her to a recording contract.

      In the midst of extensive touring and television appearances, Jones also issued a DVD, Live in New Orleans, in 2003. She was skeptical, however, about ever again matching her Grammy feat.

John Litweiler

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▪ American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress
originally  Geetali Norah Jones Shankar 
born March 30, 1979, New York, N.Y., U.S.

      American singer-songwriter, pianist, and actress, who rose to international stardom with her debut album Come Away with Me (2002), a fusion of jazz, pop, and country music.

      Jones, the daughter of American concert producer Sue Jones and Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar (Shankar, Ravi), lived with her mother and grew up in a suburb of Dallas, where her mother's vast collection of music was an early inspiration for her own eclectic taste. She first achieved national recognition by winning three Down Beat Student Music Awards as a jazz and vocal novice at Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts. After studying jazz at North Texas State University for two years, Jones dropped out and moved to Manhattan in 1999. There she sang and played in the underground music scene, meeting and collaborating with the musicians who would eventually become known as her band. In 2001 she signed a recording contract with Blue Note Records.

      Jones debuted in 2002 with Come Away with Me, a mellow, acoustic pop album featuring several recognized jazz musicians. A critical and commercial success, the album eventually sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, and it earned eight Grammy Awards (Grammy Award), including album of the year, best new artist, and song of the year ( "Don't Know Why," written by her guitarist Jesse Harris). Later in 2003, in the midst of extensive touring and television appearances, Jones issued a concert DVD, Live in New Orleans.

      Between working on her first and second albums, Jones formed the side project Little Willies, a band of five friends who shared a taste for classic American music such as that of Willie Nelson (Nelson, Willie) and Hank Williams (Williams, Hank). Little Willies—comprising Jones, Jones's bassist Lee Alexander, Richard Julian, Dan Rieser, and Jim Campilongo—performed mostly cover songs; their eponymous album appeared in 2006.

      In 2004 Jones released her second album, Feels Like Home. It debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and sold more than one million copies by the end of the first week. Like its predecessor, Feels Like Home featured Jones's quiet voice set against intimate, jazz-inspired acoustics. After little promotional touring and few public appearances, Jones released her third album, Not Too Late, in 2007. The album, recorded in her home studio, was the first for which Jones was involved in the writing process of every song. In 2007 Jones also made her acting debut, starring in My Blueberry Nights; the movie premiered at the Cannes film festival.

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Universalium. 2010.

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