Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Norah Jones chooses to ‘Begin Again’ on new release

Singer Norah Jones has been in the music business long enough to see its many evolutions over the years.

Take, for instance, Jones’ debut album “Come Away With Me,” which was released in 2002.

In 2003, the album won Grammys for album of the year and best pop vocal album, while lead single “Don’t Know Why” won the awards for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance.

Jones herself won the Grammy for best new artist.

From a sales perspective, the album went viral before “going viral” was a thing.

According to a 2016 Telegraph (London) article, the album had sold, at the time of publication, 27 million copies worldwide.

But in recent years, the music industry has moved away from albums and toward streaming services, with many artists choosing to release a single here, a single there.

Jones followed this pattern when it came to the songs found on her latest release, “Begin Again.”

“They’re not really meant to be all together,” Jones told the Ottawa Citizen in June. “We just sort of scooped them up and put the first seven out.”

“Them” is the the seven singles Jones released over the course of the year or so before the record’s April 12 release.

While piecing the album together, Jones collaborated with Thomas Bartlett, Brian Blade, Sarah Oda, Christoper Thomas and Jeff Tweedy.

In the studio, Jones wanted to let things unfold organically, save for a few voice memo ideas that she used as a jumping-off point.

“The hope is to always create in the moment, and with each session there were songs that came out of nothing,” Jones said in a statement. “I was very open and had no real expectations as far as direction, but each session has exceeded my expectations.”

Jones, speaking with the Ottawa Citizen, attributed that spontaneity to her jazz upbringing.

As a high school student, according to Billboard, Jones won the Down Beat Student Music Awards for best jazz vocalist in 1996 and 1997, as well as the award for best original composition in 1996.

While attending the University of North Texas, Jones majored in jazz piano and sang with the UNT Jazz Singers.

“Even though the music I make now I would not necessarily classify it as jazz, that’s definitely the spirit in which I like to approach things,” Jones said.

The spontaneity that resulted in “Begin Again” has been well-received by critics and fans alike.

“There is something thrillingly free about the songs on ‘Begin Again,’ ” Gabriel Fine wrote in his review of the album for Consequence of Sound. “They resist simple categorization and are experimental in the sense that they embody an unabashed confluence of Jones’ many musical inspirations.”

“(The album is) also short, seven lean tracks with no filler, a reminder that Jones has enough talent and self-awareness … to try her hand at multiple genres without stretching herself too thin,” Libby Cudmore wrote in her review for Paste magazine. “Some takes are better than others, but none of them are ever boring.”

Jones will bring tunes from “Begin Again” to Spokane during a sold-out show at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Friday.

The singer hasn’t made any declarative statements since the release of “Begin Again” as to what’s next, but there’s no denying the off-the-cuff recording sessions the collection of songs were born from lit a spark Jones is excited to cultivate.

“It’s been so fun and I feel very inspired right now and love all the different directions this is going,” she said in a statement announcing the album.