July 6, 2022

When Norah Jones’ debut album Come Away With Me first hit 20 years in the past, I admittedly didn’t grasp its revolutionary standing. I knew that it was stunning and comfy and felt enthusiastic about there being a whole document my mother and I may take pleasure in collectively. However, on high of profitable actually the entire main Grammys in 2003 and being an immaculate fusion of jazz, pop, nation, folks, and blues, it’s essential to keep in mind that Come Away With Me was a game-changer for its document label, the famed jazz incubator Blue Notice, which, till then, had by no means launched an album as unjazzy as Jones’.

Based in 1939, Blue Notice Information was initially greatest identified for “laborious bop” jazz earlier than increasing outwards to avant-garde and free jazz. Its busiest a long time have been the Fifties and ’60s, the place they launched recordings by style standard-bearers Bud Powell, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Artwork Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Cecil Taylor, and dozens extra. By the ’90s, Blue Notice had proven its capacity to evolve with the altering jazz panorama, notably placing out James Damage’s improvisational, hip-hop-adjacent debut Darkish Grooves, Mystical Rhythms (1999).

Blue Notice was the label Jones — born Geethali Norah Jones Shankar to famed sitarist Ravi Shankar and live performance producer Sue Jones — wished to be on, even if there was no precedent for the kind of genre-blended pop music she deliberate to launch. And Jones knew her jazz historical past, majoring in jazz piano on the College of North Texas, the place she additionally sang with the UNT Jazz Singers. As a child, Jones would hearken to Invoice Evans, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Billie Vacation. In highschool, she’d win the DownBeat Pupil Music Awards for Greatest Jazz Vocalist — twice. Whereas attending faculty, she crossed paths with future collaborator Jesse Harris, and in 1999 she relocated from Texas again to New York Metropolis (the place she spent the primary a part of her childhood), to type a band with Harris.

Within the early days of Jones’ skilled music profession, she did the everyday post-collegiate musician factor: waitress by day, carry out in native golf equipment by night time. Success didn’t roll up abruptly; after a couple of 12 months of doing this and nonetheless no document deal, she briefly thought-about shifting again to Texas till her mom urged her to maintain going. Good factor too, as a result of on the night time of her twenty first birthday, a Blue Notice worker occurred to be at her singing gig with the JC Hopkins Biggish Band. Upon auditioning for label CEO Bruce Lundvall, Jones was signed on the spot, regardless of just a few misgivings about her pop- and country-leaning demos.

See also  Unique Pirate Materials Turns 20

With the understanding {that a} still-green Jones wanted to hone her sound somewhat, Blue Notice A&R agent Brian Bacchus thought Jones would work properly with producer/engineer Jay Newland, who had a wealth of expertise with jazz, blues, nation, and folks. Collectively, Newland and Jones recorded 9 demos, 4 of which made their method onto Jones’ 2001 sampler EP, First Classes, and the remainder have been saved for Come Away With Me.

Recorded at Sorcerer Sound in NYC and Allaire Studios in Shokan, NY, Come Away With Me additionally famously featured manufacturing by Arif Mardin, who’d beforehand labored with Jones’ idol, Aretha Franklin, plus a bevy of different massive names (Dionne Warwick, The Bee Gees, Queen, Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Laura Nyro). In the meantime, Jones’ inventive collaborator Harris supplied up a tune he’d written for his 1999 album, Jesse Harris & The Ferdinandos. Jones’ cowl of “Don’t Know Why” grew to become her first and most profitable single, profitable her three Grammy Awards in 2003 for Document of the Yr, Tune of the Yr, and Greatest Feminine Pop Vocal Efficiency. Even to this present day, it’s Jones’ solely single to hit Billboard’s High 40.

For all of its chart bombast and eventual best-selling standing, Come Away With Me truly took a few tries to document, with Mardin introduced within the second time round. Jones has talked about not feeling “tremendous comfy” within the preliminary recording periods, given how crowded the room was with unfamiliar faces. Blue Notice piled on jazz musicians to function Jones’ backing band, with Kevin Breit, Invoice Frisell, Adam Levy, Adam Rogers, and Tony Scherr on guitar, Sam Yahel on organ, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Rob Burger on accordion, and Brian Blade, Dan Rieser, and Kenny Wollesen on percussion. Paradoxically, Come Away With Me is now praised as an particularly intimate album, with Jones’ mellow vocals on the forefront.

Listening to Come Away With Me 20 years on, it’s nonetheless simple to get caught up within the hype that circled Jones upon its launch. A pop document? On Blue Notice?? A jazz artist on the identical purple carpets as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera?? Revolutionary. As The Guardian lately identified, critics in 2002 thought that listeners is likely to be drawn to Jones’ chilled-out jazz membership sound as a result of they wanted some calm post-9/11, which Jones didn’t agree with on the time, however has since agreed that “that would have been a part of it.”

See also  Album Of The Week: Nilüfer Yanya PAINLESS

Isolate it from the pop-star hype, and also you get a relaxed, multifaceted album that finds its chief peacefully leaning right into a mesh of genres that curiosity her. Along with her cohort of backing musicians, Jones lets every part from lounge jazz to twanging country-folk have their house within the piano bar, opening a sometimes purist style like jazz as much as new listeners. Within the final decade, a tune like “Don’t Know Why” has change into so ubiquitous that it grew to become certainly one of Marnie Michaels’ cringe-covers on Women, due to course Marnie, who’s hella fundamental, would hearken to Norah Jones. However “Don’t Know Why” is a stupendous tune, similar to pumpkin spice lattes are tasty and candlelit bubble baths really feel good. Some issues simply are.

In the meantime, Hank Williams’ “Chilly, Chilly Coronary heart” is given new life as a jazz ballad underneath Jones’ tutelage. The instrumentation is likely to be groovier, however Hank’s heartbreak stays intact as Jones sultrily moans a couple of distrustful lover. It’s one other tremendous instance of Jones holding jazz up like a mirror to different genres that aren’t as totally different as we as soon as would’ve thought.

Additional down, Jones covers her outdated favourite, Billie Vacation, with an ambling rendition of “I’ve Received To See You Once more.” Sounding far older and wiser than her early twentysomething years, Jones sounds peak sultry and soulful over tinkling piano, bass, and a drawling violin. The bridge is virtually a rose-in-mouth tango of devices, which sound as inviting as Billie’s seductive sentiment.

Although Come Away With Me doesn’t as soon as diverge from its dulcet tones, Jones continuously finds new methods to discover the laidback vibe. (Put one other method, her Blue Notice debut isn’t one notice.) The ambling “Feelin’ The Similar Means” is pop-song perfection in its unobnoxious repetition, and Jones simply communicates its shrugging exhaustion. Later, the title observe — the one album lower that has Jones’ sole writing credit score — is a silky-smooth ballad a couple of soothing escape. And there’s no forgetting “Flip Me On,” a tune that may soundtrack no scarcity of Hollywood love scenes (Love Really involves thoughts). “My poor coronary heart, it’s been so darkish/ Because you been gone/ In spite of everything, you’re the one who turns me off/ You’re the one one who can flip me again on,” Jones near-growls on the bridge — one of many album’s standout vocal moments.

By way of her classic-meets-contemporary enchantment, Norah Jones circa Come Away With Me arguably cleared the way in which for a wave of soul-pop performers within the years following her debut: Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Adele. Jones herself shrugged off the eventual comparisons, telling The Guardian, “It wasn’t stuff I wished to hearken to, and when folks would put me in the identical class as another person, I wouldn’t agree. However I needed to separate myself from all of it. The reality is a few nice artists got here out of that and that’s superior.” However “the Norah impact” from an business perspective, you actually can not deny her affect. The numbers communicate for themselves.

See also  Blazing Arrow Turns 20

Along with profitable the Album Of The Yr and Greatest Pop Vocal Album Grammys, Come Away With Me hit #1 on the Billboard 200 and was ultimately licensed Diamond by the RIAA in 2005. As of 2016, it has offered greater than 27 million copies, making it one of many best-selling albums ever recorded. (Although Adele has her beat — 21 has offered greater than 31 million copies. Nonetheless, the place would Adele be with out Norah Jones?)

As Jones’ profession progressed, she would launch seven extra albums, the newest one being final 12 months’s I Dream Of Christmas. Whereas Come Away With Me follow-up Feels Like House was demonstrably profitable, going Platinum and netting Jones a Feminine Pop Vocal Efficiency for lead single “Dawn,” evaluations have been somewhat extra combined, and no album of hers reached fairly the identical fever pitch post-Come Away With Me. However, you’ll discover, Jones has launched each album by Blue Notice since her outstanding debut. Twenty years on, it’s outstanding — and really form of hilarious — to consider Come Away With Me as being a dangerous enterprise on Blue Notice’s finish, particularly contemplating what Jones has performed since then, notably bringing in Hazard Mouse to supply her 2012 album, Little Damaged Hearts and collaborating with everybody from Inexperienced Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong to the Foo Fighters to Dolly Parton to Belle And Sebastian.

For his or her half, Blue Notice took Jones’ gargantuan success as an indication to diversify their output. Although the storied jazz label is greatest identified for sticking to the style that made it well-known, it has expanded outward with albums by Rosanne Money, the Hen And The Bee, Annie Lennox, Suzanne Vega, Elvis Costello & the Roots, and Norah Jones’ alt-country supergroup Puss N Boots. For that evolution, and the way in which genres proceed to cross over in trendy pop, we completely have Jones to thank.