Norah Jones, Begin Again – Review
by Constance Tucker
Is it any wonder that this amazing wonder named Norah Jones has garnered nine GRAMMY-wins. This time out Jones is being branded much more as a singer-songwriter with Begin Again. In fact, all the sales outlets are categorizing the album as pop. Her latest release is a collection of singles that Jones has an affinity for and has recorded over the past year with collaborators including Jeff Tweedy and Thomas Bartlett. After her whirlwind tour in 2016 supporting her wildly popular release Day Breaks, Jones returned to the studio. She began the creative process with no preconceived notions, she wanted to enjoy and revel in the creative process. Jones explains, “I felt inspired to record and try different things,” Jones says, adding that the idea was to make it “quick and fun and easy and low-pressure. It’s a great way to collaborate with other people. Just a day or 3 in the studio and that’s it.” The result is a step away from her previous recordings, but no so far that she has left behind the core sound of her jazz beginnings. No matter the genre, the inflection of jazz is still there, which adds to the breadth of the performances.
“Just a Little Bit,” is a delicate ballad, which is where Jones really excels. The gentle swelling of the tune intrigues with delicate instrumentation. Jones enters with her sensual voice as the tune invokes an electronic effect of Jones’ voice. The track was produced by Jones and features her on vocals, piano, and organ along with Brian Blade on drums, Christopher Thomas on bass, Dave Guy on trumpet, and Leon Michels on tenor saxophone. This tune most of all is a departure from her previous albums. The song gets stuck in your head and repeats “I’m on Fire,” yes Miss Jones, you sure are.
The title track “Begin Again,” offers the Jones sound fans are most familiar with. Her voice is front and center in all its lusciousness. This tune is centered much more in the organic instrumentation we are used to from Jones, she excels on this track as her piano commands darkly hued chords that drive her corporeal voice.
Each tune on “Begin Again, offers a different hue and sense of instrumentation. The one defining sound is Jones’ voice. No matter the approach on the tune, her voice defines the curve of the song. It was her goal to create tunes that sparked in creativity not being confined by genre. Jones explains, “I try to go in with a few clips of voice memo ideas to have a jumping off point,” she explains. “With each session the little ideas were definitely with those particular musicians in mind, but the hope is to always create in the moment and with each session there were songs that came out of nothing. I was very open and had no real expectations as far as direction, but each session has exceeded my expectations. It’s been so fun and I feel very inspired right now and love all the different directions this is going.” This freshness in approach comes across fully on Begin Again, each track highlights Jones’ versatility. Though some of the tunes are reworked from previous recordings, there are three previously unreleased songs on Begin Again that represent an outward push of spontaneity in the ever-evolving artist known as Norah Jones.