Tag Archives: norah jones

“Now in Stores” XII

30 Apr

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Here We Go Again by Willie Nelson/Norah Jones/Wynton Marsalis (Blue Note Records, March 29,2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Once in a while the stars align and something magical happens…as on the night Jazz at Lincoln Center presented a salute to the late, great bluesman, Ray Charles. Two musical iconoclasts, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, along with the stunning songstress Norah Jones, collectively brought their unique musical perspective to the legendary artist’s hits such as “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, “Hit the Road Jack,” and “Unchain My Heart.” Country music legend Willie Nelson and Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz artist and Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis share more in common than their multiple GRAMMY® awards. They also share great respect and admiration for the late musical pioneer Ray Charles. Nelson and Marsalis joined musical forces for a two-night Jazz at Lincoln Center concert event at New York City’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Their set list explored the legacy of Charles, cleverly sequencing the songs to tell the story of a love affair from beginning to end and beyond. This fine idea was made finer by the inclusion of fellow multiple GRAMMY® winner Norah Jones, whose style suggests a middle ground between Nelson and Marsalis. The sold out performance was captured and the resulting footage expertly mixed and mastered for the brand new album.

2. James Farm by Joshua Redman (Nonesuch, April 26, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

2011 release, a collaborative effort between Joshua Redman and fellow Jazz travelers Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland. Since they’ve already guest-starred on each other’s recordings, James Farm is a natural progression for these Jazz musicians. James Farm made its debut at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival and has since performed dates in North America and Europe, garnering praise for its live set and fueling anticipation for this studio debut, which features tunes by each of the four musicians.

3. Sign of Life, Music for 858 Quartet by Bill Frisell (Savoy Jazz, April 26, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

It’s hard to find a more fruitful meditation on American music than in the compositions of guitarist Bill Frisell. –NY Times. Bill Frisell’s remarkable artistry shines through on this brand new album with his world renowned 858 string quartet. Featuring Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), and Hank Roberts (cello), Sign Of Life was born out of Bill’s composing retreat in Vermont during the fall of 2010. The entire album was recorded, mixed, and mastered in only 3 months – the shortest gestation period ever for a Frisell recording.

4. ‘Round Midnight by Karrin Allyson (Concord Records, May 3, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

`Round Midnight, an 11 track collection was recorded at Sear Sound in New York City and features tracks from a wide variety of sources, including Bill Evans, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mandel, Thelonious Monk, Stephen Sondheim, even Charlie Chaplin. But regardless of who wrote the songs and when, Allyson ties them all together with the same melancholy thread with which they were originally spun. The three time GRAMMY nominated vocalist describes her new album best in her liner notes: “Imagine yourself, in the city, walking late at night,” she writes. “It’s `Round Midnight. The wind is cold, but you hear some warm sounds and you follow your ear down into a small, dark club. There’s a woman at the piano singing these intimate ballads – one after the other. Maybe you’ve just recently suffered a heartache, or maybe the lyrics, melodies and harmonies evoke feelings you have somewhere deep down inside.”

5. Live at Birdland by Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian (ECM Records, May 17, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

A quartet of master musicians and a program of jazz classics. Live At Birdland presents the finest moments from two inspired nights at New York’s legendary club, as Konitz, Mehldau, Haden and Motian play “Loverman”, “Lullaby Of Birdland”, “Solar”, “I Fall In Love Too Easily”, “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” and “Oleo” with freedom, tenderness, and a love of melody that only jazz’s greatest improvisers can propose. On this live recording from New York’s legendary club, an ensemble of history-making players dives into the music without a set list. Four exceptional jazz musicians -Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian – approach the standards from new perspectives and unusual angles. They play them with freedom, tenderness and a melodic and rhythmic understanding found only amongst jazz’s greatest improvisers.

“Now in Stores” XI

“Now in Stores” X

“Now In Stores” IX

“Now In Stores” VIII

“Now In Stores” VII

Now in Stores (Late May, June, and July)

“Now in Stores” – 5/16/2010 to 5/22/2010

“Now in Stores” – 5/2/2010 to 5/8/2010

Now in Stores” – 4/25/2010 to 5/1/2010

“Now in Stores” – 4/18/2010 t0 4/24/2010

“Now In Stores” – 5 Noteworthy Jazz Albums Released this Week (4/11/2010-4/17/10)

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"Now in Stores" XII

30 Apr

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Here We Go Again by Willie Nelson/Norah Jones/Wynton Marsalis (Blue Note Records, March 29,2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Once in a while the stars align and something magical happens…as on the night Jazz at Lincoln Center presented a salute to the late, great bluesman, Ray Charles. Two musical iconoclasts, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, along with the stunning songstress Norah Jones, collectively brought their unique musical perspective to the legendary artist’s hits such as “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, “Hit the Road Jack,” and “Unchain My Heart.” Country music legend Willie Nelson and Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz artist and Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis share more in common than their multiple GRAMMY® awards. They also share great respect and admiration for the late musical pioneer Ray Charles. Nelson and Marsalis joined musical forces for a two-night Jazz at Lincoln Center concert event at New York City’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Their set list explored the legacy of Charles, cleverly sequencing the songs to tell the story of a love affair from beginning to end and beyond. This fine idea was made finer by the inclusion of fellow multiple GRAMMY® winner Norah Jones, whose style suggests a middle ground between Nelson and Marsalis. The sold out performance was captured and the resulting footage expertly mixed and mastered for the brand new album.

2. James Farm by Joshua Redman (Nonesuch, April 26, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

2011 release, a collaborative effort between Joshua Redman and fellow Jazz travelers Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland. Since they’ve already guest-starred on each other’s recordings, James Farm is a natural progression for these Jazz musicians. James Farm made its debut at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival and has since performed dates in North America and Europe, garnering praise for its live set and fueling anticipation for this studio debut, which features tunes by each of the four musicians.

3. Sign of Life, Music for 858 Quartet by Bill Frisell (Savoy Jazz, April 26, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

It’s hard to find a more fruitful meditation on American music than in the compositions of guitarist Bill Frisell. –NY Times. Bill Frisell’s remarkable artistry shines through on this brand new album with his world renowned 858 string quartet. Featuring Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), and Hank Roberts (cello), Sign Of Life was born out of Bill’s composing retreat in Vermont during the fall of 2010. The entire album was recorded, mixed, and mastered in only 3 months – the shortest gestation period ever for a Frisell recording.

4. ‘Round Midnight by Karrin Allyson (Concord Records, May 3, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

`Round Midnight, an 11 track collection was recorded at Sear Sound in New York City and features tracks from a wide variety of sources, including Bill Evans, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mandel, Thelonious Monk, Stephen Sondheim, even Charlie Chaplin. But regardless of who wrote the songs and when, Allyson ties them all together with the same melancholy thread with which they were originally spun. The three time GRAMMY nominated vocalist describes her new album best in her liner notes: “Imagine yourself, in the city, walking late at night,” she writes. “It’s `Round Midnight. The wind is cold, but you hear some warm sounds and you follow your ear down into a small, dark club. There’s a woman at the piano singing these intimate ballads – one after the other. Maybe you’ve just recently suffered a heartache, or maybe the lyrics, melodies and harmonies evoke feelings you have somewhere deep down inside.”

5. Live at Birdland by Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian (ECM Records, May 17, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

A quartet of master musicians and a program of jazz classics. Live At Birdland presents the finest moments from two inspired nights at New York’s legendary club, as Konitz, Mehldau, Haden and Motian play “Loverman”, “Lullaby Of Birdland”, “Solar”, “I Fall In Love Too Easily”, “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” and “Oleo” with freedom, tenderness, and a love of melody that only jazz’s greatest improvisers can propose. On this live recording from New York’s legendary club, an ensemble of history-making players dives into the music without a set list. Four exceptional jazz musicians -Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian – approach the standards from new perspectives and unusual angles. They play them with freedom, tenderness and a melodic and rhythmic understanding found only amongst jazz’s greatest improvisers.

“Now in Stores” XI

“Now in Stores” X

“Now In Stores” IX

“Now In Stores” VIII

“Now In Stores” VII

Now in Stores (Late May, June, and July)

“Now in Stores” – 5/16/2010 to 5/22/2010

“Now in Stores” – 5/2/2010 to 5/8/2010

Now in Stores” – 4/25/2010 to 5/1/2010

“Now in Stores” – 4/18/2010 t0 4/24/2010

“Now In Stores” – 5 Noteworthy Jazz Albums Released this Week (4/11/2010-4/17/10)

…Featuring Norah Jones

7 Nov

I have often said that Norah Jones is the most versatile vocalist since Ray Charles. There are many that disagree with me, for a variety of reasons, but very few of their arguments actually have to do with her versatility. Some will say she isn’t a true (insert genre here) singer, but that argument to me just goes to show that she can succeed at a variety of styles and sounds without having to be a jazz, folk, rock, country, or blues singer…thus making her very versatile. Was Ray a true country singer? Maybe not, but he did it, and people seemed to like it. And in the case of Norah Jones, you don’t sell nine million copies of your debut album without being able to appeal to a variety of audiences.

That versatility is on display in a new release that is due out November 16th called …Featuring Norah Jones.

This CD features 18 tracks of collaborations Norah Jones took part in between 2001-2010, and it couldn’t be with a more diverse lineup.

Country fans might enjoy her tracks with Dolly Parton or Willie Nelson. Jazz fans will like her work with Herbie Hancock, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ray Charles, and Charlie Hunter. Pop/Rock fans will embrace songs with the Foo Fighters and Ryan Adams, and even rap and hip-hop fans will be surprised to hear her work with Outkast, Talib Kweli, and Q-Tip.

For the open-minded music fan, this album is absolutely wonderful. For the hardcore Norah Jones fan, this is a must-have. Not only does she cross over into a variety of different musical worlds, but she does it well. There are no second rate performances here. By my count, three of the pairings on this album resulted in Grammy Awards (Outkast, Herbie Hancock, and Ray Charles).

There are plenty who will not enjoy this album, and those who don’t are likely the same group that has a problem with Norah not being a specific genre purist. But for the rest of us, this album is highly recommended.

CLICK HERE to buy …Featuring Norah Jones

Jazz Modernized

8 Mar

When you have an art form that has existed for well over one hundred years, with roots to that art form going back even farther than that, you undoubtedly end up placing many different interpretations of that art form all under the same umbrella. There may be no better example of that than jazz. Because of the freedom and progression of jazz, a musician could conceivably call anything jazz if they find some ground to justify it on.

Jazz can be broken down by eras, styles, and about a dozen or so other fields. Debates and arguments happen over which era or style is the best, or what really made jazz what it is. And it seems that as time goes on, many artists try to offer their own performance of a traditional tune with as much respect to the original as possible, write new music, or completely transform old recordings into something completely different, with the vaguest hint of the original.

It is the latter that has my attention today. There are some musicians who are doing a wonderful job creating new modern works, or offering new looks at older compositions. Trumpeter Russell Gunn might be a perfect example of that. His original recordings, and his covers of older recordings both offer the same thing: personality. And not just personality in general, they offer his personality. You can hear one of his recordings, and whether its an original or not, it always has a little attitude and a little bite. It becomes very Russell Gunn.

Some vocalists have taken to putting lyrics to old instrumental tunes, and some have made it work. It took guts for Norah Jones to put lyrics to the Duke Ellington tune Melancholia, but she did, called it Don’t Miss You At All, and the end result was wonderful. On the flip side, you won’t see me banging down any doors to get to the Manhattan Transfer vocal interpretation of the Weather Report hit Birdland.

One of the things that stirred these thoughts more vividly recently was hearing more and more songs “remixed”, and hearing them everywhere. Not so much the radio, but in department stores and elevators. These “recordings” are classic songs chopped up by a DJ, who with the help of a couple turntables (used for scratching, not playing) and a $99 music software program turn it into something you could easily hear at a techno music club. The only resemblance the final product bears to the original is one or two lines that Sarah Vaughan or Nina Simone sang that didn’t hit the DJ’s cutting room floor. The rest is purely electronically produced, almost always with a trance-like robotic drum beat.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent hours in dance clubs that featured music produced entirely with electronics. And as a modern day employee of a radio station, there is no more reel-to-reel editing, thank goodness, as everything is done quicker and easier on computers.

But when do we hit the point where we realize, in some ways, that the wonderful modern technology we have in front of us might be a tool that robs us of personality? Is it bad that someone tries to recreate Nobody’s Fault But Mine with one or two lines from the original, plus a recycled drum beat and a heavy bass line, all at five times the original tempo? The majority of the lyrics and anything resembling a solo are completely gone. Maybe it isn’t bad, but it can be unnerving at the very least when someone hears it and assumes it to be the original.

I’m not some old stick in the mud that has anything against modern technology. In fact, it is quite the opposite. But to me, there comes a point where you simply rob music of its originality and personality. And it was that personality that got us all interested in the first place. One might have seen Coltrane in concert and spoke of his 45 minute solo, or heard a recording by Ella Fitzgerald and mentioned how “you could even hear the piano bench Ellis Larkins creak as he rocked in the background, while she sang that heartbreaking tune”.

Give me personality any day, especially when it comes to music…especially when it comes to jazz. Give me something interesting and creative to listen to, and leave the computer and the canned drum beat at home.

Where is Norah Jones?

22 Feb

norah-jonesThe simple answer: Everywhere…still.

I started to wonder if Norah had finally slipped off the map a little bit since I hadn’t seen any new music cross my desk, and I hadn’t heard of any new tour dates. As it turns out, I just hadn’t been paying very close attention…at all.

It might be as fair (or unfair) to call Norah Jones a jazz musician as it would be to call Ray Charles one. While both certainly recorded jazz, and did it well, there is a immense amount of versatility they both possess/possessed that keep them far from being labeled simply as jazz musicians. Ray could rock, play country, and team up with just about anyone for any project in any genre. Norah is, and has been doing exactly that.

And it was likely her versatility that kept me from realizing she was doing so much. When you write a blog about jazz, you focus on just that – jazz – and can lose sight of what talented musicians who play jazz might be doing otherwise.

While Norah and her website does not offer a tour schedule with any scheduled dates, that does not mean she is not performing live. On Valentine’s Day, Norah performed as part of the trio Puss n’ Boots as an opening act for former Band drummer Levon Helms and his band. The night before, she performed at the intimate Black Swan in Tivoli with three other women. The Tuesday before that, Jones was on stage at in New York with Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson performing a version of You Are My Sunshine…with a Latin feel.

Norah’s versatility doesn’t stop at live performances. In fact there are few projects that Norah Jones gets involved with in any way that doesn’t top the charts or bring home Grammy awards. Aside from winning five Grammy awards for her first big album Come Away With Me, she has contributed to award winning projects like the Ray Charles album Genius Loves Company, Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, and even a brief participation on the Grammy winning album Speakerboxx/The Love Below, by rap duo Outkast.

Other recent projects include a new DVD and vinyl release, containing 18 songs she performed as part of her involvement with the television series Austin City Limits, vocal work on the first solo release in nine years from hip-hop artist Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest), and involvement with a new release called Incredibad from Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. Oh, and she had a lead role, as an actress, in a recent film called My Blueberry Nights. She also recorded for the soundtrack.

While many jazz purists might not appreciate all of the work Norah Jones does outside of jazz, it is hard to not appreciate her versatility. Ray Charles wouldn’t have been Ray Charles if he had spent all of his time trying to sound like Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, and Norah wouldn’t be Norah if she limited herself to jazz music. And at the very least, jazz fans can be thankful for her. While large record companies have had to cut back on signing jazz musicians, Blue Note Records has not, and continues to turn a profit as they celebrate their 70th year, due in large part to the 35 million copies that Norah Jones has sold over the past five years.

Watch Norah Jones perform the Ray Charles hit Drown in My Own Tears:

Jazz and Trendiness

27 Jan

If someone calls you “trendy”, you can assume that you have managed to stay current and up-to-date on things that might include fashion sense and style, pop culture, attitudes, lingo, and current events. To stay trendy, you have to adjust as the trends do. If you don’t, or haven’t, it’s possible that you may show a slight resemblance to these guys:

Flock of Seagulls

Flock of Seagulls

Jazz has survived for over one hundred years, and its likely that it will always survive in some fashion. We can find countless books and recordings on how it has changed over the decades, thanks in large part to not only those who were brave enough to experiment with their own unique thoughts and ideas, but also to great classic recordings that kind-of-bluehave withstood the test of time. Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis, sold 5,000 copies a week in 2008, roughly a half century after its creation. When you ask someone who isn’t a huge jazz fan why that CD happens to be part of their music collection, a collection filled with rap and country and rock, they usually just say “because its cool”. “Jazzheads”, on the other hand, will give you a twenty minute response on its modality, tonality, and improvisation and how it changed the world. Both are right.

Today, “jazz” is rarely used in the same sentence as “trendy”. For younger generations, jazz concerts are not as much of a must-see event as they are a random, occasional novelty. It’s far less likely that a high school cafeteria would be buzzing with discussion about what Coltrane’s best album was during lunch hour, and more likely that it will be buzzing with the latest Brittney Spears gossip.

The question is though, does jazz need to be trendy to survive? Will a younger generation find jazz and buy records and go to concerts without jazz being the main headline in pop-culture publications? Some jazz purists feel that it’s not necessary for jazz to be the headline. But doesn’t a younger generation need to be exposed to jazz somehow in order for record companies to not only invest in new jazz artists but to also afford to invest in printing copies of older albums for sale? Isn’t anything that needs to remain trendy, or even viable, or to even have a pulse, in need of new audience members year after year?

Will younger generations find satisfaction in old recordings, or will they need newer, more modern sounding recordings to enjoy. Will artists be willing to take that step and record them, and will jazz radio stations play the new stuff that might appeal to “the kids”?

There is always hope and promise. Artists like Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Michael Buble over the last few years have definitely given jazz record sales a boost. But at the same time Norah Jones and Michael Buble have received criticism for not being “true” jazz musicians, while Herbie recently has teamed up with pop superstars, drawing his own critiques from jazz purists.

Whether you think that the days of jazz appealing to a younger audience are still possible or not, or which way you think the jazz industry should go about marketing to a younger audience, or if jazz needs to be or can be trendy at all, it is safe to say that jazz has to find its way into the hands of every new generation.

Below, see some “trendy” videos of musicians of today.

Norah Jones singing Cold, Cold Heart:

Herbie Hancock with Corinne Bailey Rae performing River:

Michael Buble in a Starbucks commercial:

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