My initial reaction also. Then again, some folks tell me not to pigeonhole things and not to live in the past. Come to think of it most of those "people" are my own kids! Kind of like Ms. Norah, but to call it Jazz is a disservice to the genre. How about that Van Morrison release on Bluenote, are the Barbarians at the gate or what? Well, come to think of that, I think they have in fact entered the City a while back and hold prominent roles, judging by California, that is.
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I think Bluenote is fortunate to have her. Think about it--Bluenote is not your top 40 label--but Norah Jones is. To expose more people to Bluenote's music having someone well known like Norah Jones may just be the ticket, to improving sales and allowing them to continue on their quest of superior and classic jazz.
From what I understand, she was signed to Blue Note and after she made a CD that was not not as jazzy as was expected, they wanted to move her to another label. Norah insisted that she be on Blue Note, as that is where her influences are. Even though it probably meant less marketing resources for the release.
The sales of her album will help keep Blue Note around longer and probably fund more re-issues from the amazing Blue Note catalog. This is a huge plus in these days of music company consolidation and decisions based on the bottom line.
Blue Note has never tried to play it safe. And I think it's great that they scored a winner with Norah.
I don't think Norah Jones is jazz, even vaguely. I do see the appeal, in a mild sort of way, however. More importantly, her success will bankroll Blue Note in their more traditional ventures, just as the monster success of Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert" funded ECM for years (and may still, for all I know).
That reminds me something like a re-manufacturing products with cheap chinese labor.
Why not Pass Labs make their amps in China? It's much more cheaper?
Why the respected Blue Note label decided to go to the larger "cheaper" mass allowing some delitant to be present in their repertoire of vast majority of a talented musicians? Why-not them to look for larger talents just from NY subways like Sony Music does?
I'm really catching it for this one, but look at this objectively. More people listen to Norah Jones than Hank Mobey. And guess what--even more people listen to Eminem. To me, it's not a question of popularity--or selling out (which seems to be implied). It's a matter of economics. Blue Note needs revenues to continue their quest, and they will for one sell many Norah Jones albums but I think more importantly--and hopefully, turn a few new customers their way to explore some of the jazz Blue Note has to offer.
Some of the arguments here seem to me on the order of: "No, please don't let any pop lovers discover MY jazz--it's too precious to share." I disagree, and believe that creating new avenues to that exploration such as Norah Jones is a good idea. Just my 2 cents in an area that I am certainly no expert.
I don't see how Norah Jones (as unremarkable as she is) affects the music of other jazz artists. The only thing that conceivably COULD happen is that the accountants start looking at the bottom line and start dumping less profitable artists. Now THAT would be criminal. Hank Mobley is Hank Mobley, and no amount of Norah releases from Blue Note will dilute him...or Kenny Dorham... or anyone else.
Now, that being said, I must say that the lineup at the Blue Note clubs is beginning to look decidedly mainstream, esp. on weekends, as is the whole Blue Note experience.
The new Van Morrison is also on Blue Note. I like Van and I'm glad Blue Note is able to pick up some more varied talent. It brings more money to Blue Note which allows them to do even more than they are now.
I don't think of Van Morrison as your typical Blue Note artist, but the colaboration is good for both of them. I wish all of my favorite artists would record on a better label. Blue Note does a great job. They take the time to put out quality recordings. Who wouldn't want better quality recordings? It might push mainstream labels to do a better job to retain artists like Norah Jones and Van Morrison, each of which sell LOTS of albums.
For those of you who still are interested in this topic, there is something on this (along with a less than glowing review of Norah's new album) in the Feb. 2, 2004 issue of "Newsweek" (the one with John Kerry on the cover).
To quote one passage from the article:
"Last year...jazz sales were up slightly, but only because the pop-ish singer Norah Jones is classified on the charts as a jazz artist, largely because she records on the jazz label Blue Note. If you subtract the 5.1 million copies her debut album, "Come Away With Me," has sold nationally in 2003, jazz lost ground, too [the other is classical, as the article states earlier]. The labels' solution is to sign artists who appeal to broader tastes. Bruce Lundvall, president and chief executive of EMI Jazz and Classics who signed Jones to Blue Note, says the transition is liberating and necessary. And he's delighted to call Jones, whose new album debuts next week, a jazz artist."
As for the album itself, the "Newsweek" reviewer refers to it as sounding "more like an amateur's debut that a top-of-the-pops follow-up..."
Miles Davis hated having his music called jazz. He didn't like the fact that by labeling his music it gave people preconceived notions about what the music should be like. As far as I'm concerned jazz is not a static music form and it is still capable of evolving. Whether or not you consider Norah Jones a positive or negative evolutionary step is irrelevant, what's important is that she has brought attention and fans to jazz music. Unlike classical music, jazz doesn't yet belong behind a glass pane in a museum.
Has anyone here even heard the album? Thought not. Lets hold off judgment until its released. Not sure I want to use Newsweek as my primary source of pop/jazz/whatever criticism. I, for one, really enjoyed seeing her perform and am looking forward to hearing and deciding for myself. On a similar note, curious about anyone's reaction to new Alicia Keys. Very different from the first release. NO way can you say she did a Sarah Maclachlan and went back to the well one to many times, IMO.
Marakanetz-clearly she can sing and you as a Can fan should know that fitting someone into a specific box has no merit.
You really believe if you took a straw poll that Helmut from Can would be considered a better singer?
If you don't like her move along,everybody has different value systems.
To me any vocal of any style is the one who has a controll over the music or to say more precisely over the song. It's a person that has maximum "synergy" over lyrics voice and music.
Norah has only grade 4 out of 10 in all of my criterias.
Figure Irmin Schmidt, Karoli, Suzuki and certainly Malcolm Mooney.
Figure also terrible one such as John Wetton(King Crimson).
All of these terrible vocals unites one thing: none can sing better a specific songs than they can. Who can sing better "In the Distance Lies the Future" than Malcolm Mooney? Chris De Bourgh? Pete Gabriel? Phill Collins?...
Can you spell any song that only Norah would sing its best??
Listening any song she sings, I just picture someone else on her place such as Krall, Willson or Schuur instead as much better match.
Hmmmm, I really don't see the link between cheap labour and Norah Jones on Blue Note. What I do see and hear is a young musician/singer who is at the beginning of what could be a long, diverse and successful career. Her abilities are still evolving and, hopefully, improving, and it will likely be many years before she reaches her peak as a vocalist or pianist.
Onhwy61 is SO RIGHT about jazz not being static, it is a continually evolving, shape-shifting genre with many idioms. We could argue until we're blue in the face about whether Norah's music really is jazz, but at the very least it incorporates a jazz influence, among others.
Dilettante is defined as - 1 : an admirer or lover of the arts 2 : a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge. Now call me crazy, but that does not seem to fit here. Norah is quite clearly a musician, and insofar as music is an art form, I would have to say she is also an artist. The fact that one does not like her voice or music does not a dilettante make her. As to a song that only she can sing: Come Away With Me.
Disclaimer - my brother the jazz musician (double-bass) has had occasion to converse with Ms. Jones and finds her to not only be very down-to-earth, but also knowledgeable about things musical, in addition to being quite proficient on the piano.
The link is very simple:
To compare with Britney's repertoire Norah's one is "too expencive". To compare with the rest of Blue Note repertoire seems to be "too cheap". To compare with compeeting during Gramys Bruce Springsteen, well, it's very close + or - imho.
The cheap in terms of investment to create a song or music, investment in terms of level of sophistication towards the vocal perception peak or capabilities. In most cases the cheap investment creates the largest profit as all of the commercial music had prooven. Some exeption is Freddy Mercury.
You're contraversing yourself saying that she's on developmental stage. Certainly there's no doubt that she will become better and better and will probably lean towards serious sophistication that will finally suit the Blue Note repertoire...
I've no jazz-musician brother, but cruising arround NY jazz and music clubs large or small along with large performing arts centers I'm sure I can distinguish vocal qualities. To me she's still just a nice girl who's part of commercial promotion of jazz.
If jazz(or any kind of real music) will be promoted to the commercial levels, I may positively agree that it will be much harder for cheap pop artists dive onto the waves of the show biz.
Marakanetz-seems like you are having a pop at Springsteen now too.
With all due respect you have to realise that personal response,interpretation or opinion without some kind of basis is pointless.
I've seen this a few times recently,it's like turning up here and saying X component is crap,it's worthless and yet people do it with music and aren't taken to task for it,the way they would with equipment analysis.
If you want to debate on the quality and worth of Springsteen's music,let's do it-I can explain in great detail why he is one of last centuries most important artists on a number of levels.
You are entitled to your love of more etheral music but part of being broad minded and being open to music is to consider all possibilities,even what you deem superficial.
It is impossible to like all music but I strive to understand why some things are successful,of course we are bound to dismiss some music as pap.
I'm not a particularly big fan of Norah Jones but I understand her popularity and recognise she has talent.
You have made a distinction between artists you have seen in Jazz clubs and Ms Jones.
Have you seen her live?
If not you are not comparing like with like.
Have you heard these small bands records?
If not you are not comparing like with like.
Your analysis between investiment and pop music is also widely awry,do not understimate the time effort and money spent making the pop hits,it is a skill in itself,it may not feature in your value system but you need to realise the number of pop artists that fail.
It's clearly an area you ignore therefore you are reduced to broad sweeps of uniformed criticism.
Finally nobody I know takes music more seriously than me,I have very strong opinions on music but it is not reasonable for any individual to define and state what is "real" music.
Some brilliant musician of the future may indeed be inspired (intially)by Norah or indeed Britney.
Having your own value system is crucial but keep it in perspective,you have to realise that the number of people who view music as art is vastly out numbered by those who consider it entertainment.
Any real study of music will also reveal that the lines dividing music as art or entertainment are blurred and largely self-determined.
It can be either or both.
By all means have strong opinions but some of your sweeping generalisations above indicate your value system has started to close your mind.
the new album has been in circulation for a few days at least. If you liked her first album, you'll probably like this one as well. Nothing ground breaking, but it will sell a ton of copies and flush Blue Note's warchest for other endeavors. Anything to put $ in smaller boutique sub labels or independants is a good thing IMO.
"Who sais she's a singer?
What a silly statement. Snobbery at its best. Norah is not my favorite female vocalist by far, (gimmie Eva Cassidy any day) but to question her singing ability is....just silly. Blanket statements like that make any other arguments you may have pointless, you lost your audience with your bias.
Once more into the fray...
Did I contradict myself? Um, I don't think so, but I suppose it could be construed that I did... I guess what I didn't specifically state is that I think she did a pretty good job on her first album and that, with time, she may continue to evolve and improve upon already considerable, if not impressive, talents.
Who's to say??? Wait and see. In the meantime, enjoy what you will. YMMV. Etc.
Whether or not you're a fan of Norah Jones or not, be sure to check out the 1997 film documentary Blue Note. It tells the story of the label and its founder, Alfred Lion. The convergence of the fabulous musicians with Rudy van Gelder (engineer), Reid Miles (graphic artist) and Francis Wolff (photographer) created one of the 20th century's greatest bodies of work. The film is a stirring tribute to their joint efforts. A must see if you love jazz.
BTW, Stan Ricker gives a lucid explanation of how a vinyl record is cut by a recording lathe.
New crop of `jazz' singers a bland lot
By Howard Reich
Chicago Tribune arts critic
April 11, 2004
They're young, glamorous, beautiful, talented, evocatively dressed, sumptuously photographed -- and, oh, so boring to hear.
Packaged to appeal more to the eye than to the ear, the new jazz singers -- or at least the vocalists being marketed as such -- have sold millions of records and, therefore, have redefined the art form for listeners around the planet.
There's one nagging problem, however, with the stunning ascent of the new vocal stars who draw on jazz-swing traditions: On purely artistic (rather than commercial) terms, they're dwarfed not only by the jazz masters who preceded them but by lesser-known contemporaries, many of whom are hustling to pay the rent.
Though the murmuring Norah Jones rules as the biggest selling vocalist on Blue Note, the most prestigious label in jazz, her diminutive voice and limited technique pale alongside the work of her less-hyped label-mates, such as the vocally plush Dianne Reeves and the steeped-in-blues Cassandra Wilson.
Though generic singer-pianist Diana Krall is about to ride a wave of publicity for forthcoming release "The Girl in the Other Room" (which she co-wrote with her pop-star husband, Elvis Costello), her jazz chops have proved rudimentary compared with, say, the formidable singer-pianist Patricia Barber.
Among the men, too, the gulf between the photogenic, easy-listening artists and their hard-core jazz brethren is gaping, at least as far as artistic achievement is concerned. Uncounted fortunes have been spent promoting such bathed-in-nostalgia singers as Peter Cincotti, John Pizzarelli and Steve Tyrell, but does any informed listener really consider them in the same league with the brilliant, oft-explosive -- but decidedly less commercial -- Kurt Elling?
Stack up the pretty boys, and girls, against fierce and fearless individualists such as Elling, Barber, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lizz Wright and Philip Manuel, among others, and it's clear that the 21st Century has ushered in a bland new world of watered-down jazz singing, a pseudo-chic Muzak for a new millennium.
"I think we're very oriented toward image, toward a certain kind of `look' these days," says Michael Friedman, whose Chicago-based Premonition Records released several of Barber's breakthrough albums, including "Cafe Blue" and "Modern Cool."
"There's not much attention paid to a Kurt Elling or a Patricia Barber or people who are doing interesting things in the vocal area -- people who are trying new ideas.
"It's driven, instead, by image. Peter Cincotti is a handsome dude. Jane Monheit is a beautiful young singer.
"Beautiful singers singing beautiful songs in very non-confrontational ways -- that's what seems to work today."
Not that there's anything inherently wrong with talented young musicians playing a conservative, easily digested music for a large, record-buying public that is embracing the musical equivalent of comfort food. Though it's debatable whether most consumers actually listened to Jones' blockbuster Blue Note debut "Come Away With Me" or simply played it as background music, there was no questioning the quality of its production values or the back-to-basics appeal of a quiet little voice singing over a straightforward instrumental backdrop.
For jazz devotees and musicians, however, the rub comes when artists such as Jones, Krall, Cincotti and the rest are marketed by jazz and pop labels as the real thing, the new stars of swing-based music.
The process may have begun in earnest with Krall, whose crossover recordings such as "Love Scenes" and "When I Look in Your Eyes" made her the Norah Jones of the '90s. The soft-focus, quasi-romantic CD jackets and glossy magazine ads aptly represented Krall's pleasant but lackluster music and proved a jazz-based singer-pianist could reach a larger pop audience, given the right look and promotion.
"I've been trying to figure this out, and I think what has happened is that the record companies have found a way to finally control what is called jazz," says Bridgewater, a Grammy- and Tony-winning jazz singer.
"The record companies had this idea of taking a Diana Krall and putting lots of money behind her and selling her in the way that they do pop artists -- putting her out there and having her visible, a huge marketing scheme, and people bought into it.
"And then Norah Jones kind of took off, and that has enabled these record companies to redefine what a jazz singer is.
"To me, true jazz singers try to do something different with their music, to explore different ideas.
"But what [record labels] are trying to do now is make jazz a kind of easy listening, a hip new Muzak."
It's worth noting, however, that it wasn't record company promotion alone that fueled the ascent of the easy-listening singers, for writers and critics have done more than their share.
When Monheit emerged, in 2000, writer David Hajdu, author of the critically acclaimed Billy Strayhorn biography "Lush Life," wrote in The New York Times that she "sings like a black jazz master of the past, specifically Ella Fitzgerald." A few years earlier, critic Stephen Holden in the same publication said Krall "suggests the young Peggy Lee," a comparison he continued to invoke.
The vocalist who even approaches the technical virtuosity of Fitzgerald or the cunning stylistic economy of Lee has yet to emerge, but the gushing encomiums helped generate media buzz, publicity and sales.
Among today's record labels, none has been more successful at crossing over than Blue Note, an ironic turn of events, considering that the firm was founded in 1939 as an independent alternative to the prevailing tastes of the day. As such, it was Blue Note that early on recorded such iconoclastic as pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell and such larger-than-life personalities as tenor saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins.
To this day, the label has continued to champion such unconventional and distinctive talents as Elling, Wilson and Reeves, but it's clear where the promotional muscle is being applied.
Though Blue Note officials said they were unavailable to comment for this article, Bruce Lundvall -- the label's president and one of the most revered executives in the industry -- earlier this year offered his assessment of Jones' success.
"The melodies are lovely, and there's no screaming and yelling," he told Billboard earlier this year, in explaining the 18 million copies of "Come Away with Me" Jones has sold to date, as well as 1 million-plus copies her recent "Feels Like Home" sold in its first week. "I was just lucky I made the decision to sign Norah on the spot."
Lundvall has pushed ahead, signing Van Morrison and Al Green -- important, widely admired artists whose jazz roots couldn't push up a dandelion.
"Norah has changed our direction to a degree," Lundvall acknowledged in an earlier Billboard interview. "Our story now is that we've dropped the boundaries and opened the borders."
Considering that jazz represents a mere 2 percent to 3 percent of record sales by U.S. companies, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, it's difficult to fault Blue Note for wanting to beef up its bottom line.
Yet a price is paid when an art form is redefined in the public imagination by artists so limited in technical skill and artistic vision. In an earlier era, the high-flying virtuosity of Fitzgerald, the deep-and-gritty confessionals of Billie Holiday, the fascinating vocal experimentation of Betty Carter and, of course, the protean gifts of Frank Sinatra set the standard.
Their most popular successors, alas, have proved less impressive technically and less innovative musically than one might have hoped.
"Look -- if Frank Sinatra were alive, none of us would have any work," says Elling, a Grammy-nominated vocalist who believes Jones, Krall, et al perform a valuable service by at least introducing listeners to the standard jazz-swing repertoire.
"In jazz, there always has been a dialectic between people who are playing more inside [the mainstream] and people who are reaching out, and many of us refer to the same canon of tunes.
"[Listeners] who are curious and interested in digging deeper have a place to go."
Or at least they do so long as singers such as Elling are struggling to be heard over the radio saturation of the Jones-Krall-Cincotti contingent.
"The biggest downside of all this is the future, because we're really not conditioning people to expect the unexpected, to be moved, to think music can be a major part of their lives" says Friedman, Premonition owner.
"Music becomes something that people kind of use as a background."
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune