I loved Norah Jones’ fabulous debut album “Come Away with Me”, with her unreal composure (for a debutant, that is) and intoxicating tone. I’ve listened to it countless number of times. Then came Feels like Home, which mostly felt like Come Away with Me. And I was already wondering if that’s pretty much the last of hers that I’d listen to. Still I checked out Not too Late. Nope. It was too late for me, and so I didn’t follow her for a decade, and more. I haven’t even heard her “country/pop” albums in those years, not even a track.
Lately, I started my trial of Apple Music which is finally available in India, and today, it suggested her latest album, with a positive blurb, and I thought, what the heck. Little was I expecting to be stunned!
With Day Breaks, Norah Jones seems to be finally delivering on the promise she made with her debut album. What we have here, is a strange concoction of original singles, that do remind — but not in a “repetitive” sense — of the singles from her early days, and some covers, from big names like Ellington, Horace Silver, Neil Young. Also, added to the fleet are names like Wayne Shorter, John Patitucci, as needed. The whole album has a polished, mature feel to it, as you would expect from a now veteran, and with the exception of “Tragedy”, almost everything else resonated with me.
The opening track, Burn, sets tone for a “different”, but same Jones, as she experiments with a very different rhythm, while sticking to her guns — her fabulous voice, and piano underscoring, rather than overriding. The fourth and fifth tracks (It’s a Wonderful Time for Love/And Then There Was You) are vintage Jones. And it’s here that the Album starts to break free, living up to its name. The title track that follows ventures into a more energized zone. A little heavy ensemble gives it a gravitas that’s not what one’s used to, with Jones.
Peace, a cover of Horace Silver standard (which I must confess, with shame, I hadn’t heard before, for all my Jazz explorations over last few years), is remarkable, to say the least — with a beautiful synergy between Jones voice and piano, and Wayne Shorter’s solos. And it just gets better and better from there, with a playful “Once I Had a Laugh”, with Jones now venturing into a classic vocal Jazz era, and returning to a soulful Carry On after a track — which seems like the right ending note. This track, above all, shows Jones’ almost casual mastery, and poise that comes after one and half decade of journey.
But Jones had other ideas. And she ends it on a glorious cover of Duke’s “African Flower” that I for one am going to go back to, along with many others in the album. Again, it’s Wayne Shorter adding a lot of meat with his exquisite playing, and is given a well-deserved long runway, with Jones taking a back seat, adding some flourishes with piano.
Recommended. Especially if you were enthralled by her earlier works, the way I was.