miércoles, 7 de enero de 2009

Norah Jones *



Geethali Norah Jones Shankar (nacida el 30 de marzo de 1979, es una cantante y pianista estadounidense. Su voz cálida e íntima y su sencillez ha enamorado a medio mundo y con su primer disco “Come Away With me” ha conseguido vender más de 18 millones de copias y 8 premios Grammy. Su música combina elementos de jazz, soul y country.El 30 de marzo de 1979, un año después de romperse la relación entre el maestro indio del sitar, Ravi Shankar, y la enfermera Sue Jones, nació la pequeña Norah.Norah y su madre vivieron en Nueva York hasta que la niña cumplió cuatro años. Entonces se mudaron a Grapevine (cerca de Dallas, Texas), donde vivió hasta los veinte. En su casa nunca faltaron discos de los clásicos del blues y del jazz: Billie Holiday, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ray CharlesNorah empezó a estudiar canto y se sumó al coro de la iglesia para cantar gospel, al tiempo que iniciaba las clases de piano y saxofón (a los siete). Estaba lejos de ser una alumna modelo: era bastante vaga y dejó el estudio varias veces. Sin el esfuerzo de su madre, su abuela, y sus profesores Renetta Frisque y Julie Bonk, probablemente hubiese abandonado el camino musical.Cuando creció se matriculó en una escuela de artes y nunca faltaba en las actuaciones para cumpleaños y concursos musicales. Su primer contacto con el jazz lo tuvo en Dallas, al ingresar en su adolescencia en el Instituto Broker T. Washirable. En 1996 y 1997 ganó varios premios de interpretación y composición para estudiantes. Al finalizar el instituto entró en la Universidad de North Texas, donde estudió piano y teoría en el programa de jazz. Allí se especializó en teclado de jazz y formó su primer grupo. De ahí pasó a tocar el piano y cantar regularmente en un restaurante italiano.Con veinte años cumplidos, Norah volvió a Nueva York para unas breves vacaciones y ya no quiso volver a Texas, para disgusto de su madre. Poco antes había tomado contacto con un grupo de músicos de aquella ciudad y quedó prendada. Una vez en “La gran manzana”, pronto hizo pie en el fértil circuito de garitos de conciertos de Greenwich Village y colaboró con diversas bandas. Durante dos años se ganó la vida cantando en salones de jazz, almuerzos y happy hours, muchas veces ante menos de quince personas y cobrando sólo de las propinas que les daban los parroquianos. Sin embargo, en esa época supo que quería vivir de cantar en vivo y que iba a hacer todo lo posible por lograrlo. Abandonó la universidad, empezó a escribir sus propias canciones, formó parte del combo de funk fusion, Wax Poetic, y finalmente montó su propio grupo con el bajista Lee Alexander, el guitarrista y compositor de Don’t Know Why, Jesse Harris, y el baterista Dan Rieser. Por esa época se estabilizó como cantante en el club nocturno The Living Room.En uno de esos conciertos la escuchó Shell White, miembro de la discográfica EMI, una noche del año 2000. Le gustó lo que oía y le pidió un demo con sus canciones. Éste se lo llevó a su amigo Bruce Lundvall, director de Blue Note, el reputado sello de jazz. Y acertó, porque esa compañía estaba en la búsqueda de nuevos artistas. La propuesta de Norah no podía ser más tentadora: una voz joven y sugerente, plena de cálida sensualidad, cantando casi como si desvelara algún íntimo secreto. Lundvall la contrató con haber escuchado apenas tres canciones de ese cassette y le encargó al productor Craig Street que trabajara el material de Norah y la rodeara con instrumentistas de lujo. El resultado, mucho más pop que la versión final, no convenció a nadie y Lundvall le encargó a su productor estrella, Arif Mardin, una nueva versión, que se concentrara en la voz. El paquete estaba listo y “Come away with me”, su debut discográfico, salió a la venta en febrero de 2002, sin campañas masivas, ni un hit agresivo sonando en todas las radios. Sin embargo, el boca a boca hizo su trabajo y el disco se empezó a vender cada vez más. Para el otoño ya había sobrepasado el millón de copias vendidas y todos estaban maravillados. También se convirtió en platino en Holanda, Australia, Portugal y Hong Kong; doble platino en Gran Bretaña, Irlanda y Singapur; y quíntuple platino en Nueva Zelanda. El total de ventas alrededor del mundo sobrepasa los 18 millones de copias. Además, fue la gran triunfadora de la 45 edición de los Grammy entregados en 2003, con sus ocho estatuillas ganadas, incluidas mejor álbum, canción, disco del año y mejor artista novel.Dos años después de la publicación de su álbum de début, "Come Away with Me", Norah Jones regresa con "Feels Like Home".La cantante-pianista-compositora vuelve a hacer equipo con el productor Arif Mardin, el ingeniero de sonido Jay Newland y su grupo habitual en directo. Nos ofrece un conjunto de canciones compuestas por ella, los miembros de su grupo y por el cantante y compositor Richard Julian. Jones también hace versiones de varias canciones incluyendo "Be Here To Love Me" de Townes Van Zandt y "Melancholia" de Duke Ellington, canción para la que ella escribió las letras y la re-tituló con el nombre de "Don’t Miss You At All".

Norah Jones, the talented singer, songwriter and pianist, who has won over the world with her signature style, unveils her new album, Not Too Late. Her third outing for Blue Note Records, the album is a 13-track gem that features, for the first time, Jones singing a full assortment of her own compositions that plumb the depths of emotion with subtle levity and probe the mind-set of living in a troubled world. "Three or four years ago, I was telling people that the one thing I wanted to get better at was songwriting," says the New York-based artist who's a multi-Grammy winner and whose albums are multi-platinum selling. Jones notes that she didn't set out to write all the songs, but that during her last tour, she "got into a songwriting groove that continued when I got back home. I love to interpret other songwriters' music, but I don't always feel as close to them as my own songs. These songs are much more honest, closer to my gut; this record is much more personal." Produced by Lee Alexander, longtime bassist in Jones' band, who also shares songwriting credit on many of the tracks, Not Too Late displays a self-assured maturity, with songs that range in tempo and style while also maintaining the fundamental signature of her heartfelt delivery. The 27-year-old Jones acknowledges that she's grown as a songwriter, noting that the songs from her first two albums were among the first she had ever written. "They're a bit elementary when I look back at them," she says. "These new songs probably have more of my personality because I think they are a little more complex. Some of these songs are dark and cynical, but there's also a sense of hope. That's why the album is named Not Too Late. I liked the positive message." Jones burst upon the pop music world with her auspicious debut, Come Away With Me, released by Blue Note in 2002. No one could have anticipated how much the then-22-year-old's sultry and alluring music that melded jazz, country, blues and folk would resonate around the globe. The album of originals (by her as well as by friends such as Jesse Harris) and covers (written by Hank Williams, Hoagy Carmichael and J.D. Loudermilk) has sold almost 10 million copies in the U.S. and over 20 million worldwide and swept the Grammy Awards in 2003. The album established Jones as a star destined for a long career of pop music artistry. She proved to be an original with a singular voice that's fragile, inviting and bittersweet with equal measures of wistfulness and reverie. Two years later Jones followed up with the superb Feels Like Home, another engaging and heartfelt album that—like her first—was the perfect blend of originals by Norah and her bandmates and well-chosen covers. Feels Like Home debuted at 1 on the Billboard charts, going on to sell over 4 million units in the U.S. and over 10 million worldwide. Both albums were overseen by legendary producer Arif Mardin, who passed away in June 2006. For Not Too Late, Jones says the sessions were "fun, relaxed, just easy," in large part because most of the tracking was recorded in her and Alexander's home studio. "This album was made so differently than the first two," she says. "For those we booked a studio for a week to record, then returned for a week a few months later. That was great, but there was always a deadline, so we had a limited amount of time. For this album, there was no pressure, no deadline. Blue Note didn't even know about it; we were just doing it to have some fun and to see what would come of it." Jones explains that many of the sessions were recorded at the spur of the moment. "It was mostly asking friends, 'Hey, are you in town tonight? Great. Come on over.' It was very loose and for the most part involved friends and people that friends recommended." In addition to Jones' core band of Alexander, guitarist Adam Levy, vocalist Daru Oda and drummer Andy Borger, guests on the album include M. Ward and Richard Julian on backing vocals, Jesse Harris on rhythm guitar, Tony Scherr on electric guitar, Larry Goldings on Hammond B-3 organ, Bill McHenry on tenor saxophone, and cellists Jeffrey Zeigler of the Kronos Quartet and Julia Kent. As for the absence of Mardin, Jones says, "It would have been nice to have that third ear, that third opinion. Arif always loomed over us in such a wonderful way. He was more of a nurturer than a taskmaster producer. He heard all our ideas and would make suggestions, usually very minimally. And he always fit in with our crew. He was our buddy." While Jones was touring in 2004 and 2005, she brought along an acoustic guitar, upon which she wrote most of her songs, including "Until the End," conceived on an island in the South Pacific on a rainy day during a tour break, and the ballad "Rosie's Lullaby" ("It's so slow that you feel like you're underwater," she says), penned in Australia. "The guitar is simple and a lot easier to carry than a piano," she says. "I found that I started to write more with the guitar." After she got off the road, she was eager to get those songs down on tape. Six of the songs written on the road are on Not Too Late, while others were written at home. Most of the songs were "pulled into better shape," says Jones, by Alexander. "Mostly I'd write the songs and Lee would tweak the lyrics. He's wonderful at that." As for the role of piano on Not Too Late, Jones says, "The piano is always loud in the mix, but I've never been into it being the main rhythm instrument unless we're playing something funky. I've always liked the guitar as the rhythmic instrument." She pauses, then notes, "And I even get to play the guitar on the album." She plays electric on the striking tune "Broken," which also features Alexander's "bass extravaganza," as Jones calls it, where he overdubs 11 tracks of pizzicato and bowed bass. She also plays acoustic guitar on "Wake Me Up," a slow and touching number that features Alexander's lap steel cries. Interestingly, the leadoff track of the album, "Wish I Could," is played without piano. It's a swaying melancholic beauty played in waltz time, with Harris on guitar and Zeigler on cello. Jones says that while she enjoys writing/singing love songs, she's stretching beyond that scenario. "I like writing songs that are not so cut-and-dried," she says, "songs with a twist to them. And it's hard not to be influenced by the news." So, on "Wish I Could," there's a reference to a former lover sent off to war, and on the dark-clouded, dream-shrouded "My Dear Country," Jones grievingly sings of how there are far scarier things than Halloween. Also, in the quietly romantic "The Sun Doesn't Like You," a tune Jones started while on tour in Brazil, a sense of intrigue pervades the lyrics: "We can build a fire/In the open field past the razor wire/Sneak by the dogs when they go to sleep/Bring part of yourself that you'll let me keep." Not everything was written on the road. The lightly melodic "Not My Friend" came to Jones after she watched a movie in bed. "I don't think I ever did that before," she says. "Usually I like to sit and think about the film afterwards. But this time I wrote." She notes that she watched the film again just to make sure she hadn't lifted the tune from the soundtrack. She hadn't. She adds, "This song was fun to record because we flipped the tape around to get that backwards sound on Adam's guitar." One of the first songs Jones wrote for the new album is "Be My Somebody," a mid-tempo tune that broke through a writer's block while she was home alone for a stretch while Alexander was away producing Amos Lee's debut album. "I was depressed and I couldn't write," says Jones. "A friend who I was hanging out with gave me some good advice and once that song was done the rest came out a little easier." One of the last songs to be finished was the title track, a hope for people to change despite hearts pumped dry of blood and smoke-filled lungs. Jones wrote the music and most of the lyrics a couple of years ago, but only close to end of the sessions for Not Too Late did she put the finishing touches on the song with Alexander's help. While Jones wrote most of the music, the Kurt Weill-ish sounding "Sinkin' Soon," the most unusual and fun piece on the CD, was composed by Alexander with her supplying the bridge. "We weren't able to play the song the whole way through before recording it, so we all went out to dinner and drank some beer," says Jones. "I guess we needed a little bit of that drunken sailor vibe because we came back and recorded this on the first take." J. Walter Hawkes lends the trombone solo, "We asked him to stop by because he's an old friend and a total character. His plunger solo was perfect for this song." Also added later were backing vocals from M. Ward and Tom Waits-like pot-and-pan percussion, including Jones' teapot that didn't survive the session intact. Two numbers on Not Too Late hark back to Jones' early writing life. The Wurlitzer-vibed, sweet-beauty "Thinking About You" was written in 1999 with Ilhan Ersahin of Wax Poetics when she was playing with the band. "That song has always been in the back of my mind," says Jones. "I always thought of it as too much of a pop song for me, I thought maybe someone else could record it, and we even tried to do a version of it for the last album, but it sounded too country-rock. It's nice to know that we've finally found a way to make it work. When seven years go by and you still like the song, that's a good thing." Another oldie from Jones' notebook is the short, whimsical ditty, "Little Room," written before the first album when she was living in a "teensy" East Village studio with bars on the only window. "It was a funky little room," says Jones, and it was also, as the lyrics point out, a small haven for big love. Oda supplies the whistle solo in the song. Not Too Late strikingly stands as the next step in the artistic evolution of Norah Jones. With it, she has defied the flash-in-the-pan fortune of so many of her chart peers, who are here today and gone tomorrow. Jones is here to stay, and Not Too Late is further proof of the greening of her career.

Web Side: http://www.norahjones.com/

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