Norah Jones Releases Long Overdue First Live Album Via ‘Til We Meet Again’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Norah Jones’ has immense global appeal as you’ll hear on this live album …Til We Meet Again, her first live album nearly two decades into her highly decorated career. Beyond the nine Grammy awards, Jones is 2020’s most live-streamed artist. Yet what might be even more surprising to many is the enthusiastic reaction she receives on this recording from fans in France, Italy, Brazil, and Argentina from performances recorded between 2017-2019.  Most tracks have the pianist flanked by Pete Remm on organ, bassist Christopher Thomas or Jesse Murphy, with Brian Blade on drums. Some selections feature guitarist Jesse Harris, flutist Jorge Continentino, and percussionist Marcelo Costa.

Most of the 14 tracks are either composed by Jones or a band member with Remm and Harris factoring in. There are only three covers, one of which is Hank’s opening “Cold, Cold, Heart,” rendered in a jazz-tinged slowed tempo, faithful to the version that appeared on her 2002 debut Come Away With Me. “Don’t Know Why” and “I’ve Got to See You Again” are also drawn from that album.  The setlist spans her entire career with “Sunrise” and “Those Sweet Words from 2004’s Feels Like Home;” “After the Fall” from 2012’s Little Broken Hearts; and “Flipside” and “Tragedy” from 2016’s Day Breaks. In addition, there are five from her recent singles series – “It Was You,” “Begin Again,” “Just a Little Bit,” “Falling,” and the Grammy-nominated “I’ll Be Gone.”  The album closes with a powerful solo piano performance of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” a tribute to Chris Cornell recorded at the Fox Theater in Detroit just days after Cornell’s death following his performance at the same venue.

Following “Cold, Cold Heart,” Jones delivers the organ bathed “It Was You,” one of only three tracks from stateside performances. This album reveals Jones’ piano skills arguably more so than many of her studio dates. She has frequent opportunities to stretch out, consistently hitting emotive chords and the right notes, often not dazzling but revealing an uncanny rhythmic feel for simple, elegant progressions.  From her 2018 performance in France, we hear Blade setting the groove for “Begin Again” as Remm’s B3 fills the spaces. Also, from France are two tunes penned by Jesse Harris – the stretched-out, “I’ve Got to See You Again,” with Blade at his finest and Jones in torch mode; and the sultry, soulful piano/organ blend of “Don’t Know Why,” given a lovely, slightly more mature reading than when first heard in 2002 to, like most of them here, a rousing audience reception.

The December 2019 performance from Rio features exquisite drum work from Blade and a slight change to the overall sound via Jorge Continentino’s fluttering alto flute on “Just a Little Bit.” It’s one of six taken from two performances in Brazil. Others are “Tragedy,” rendered with a trio of Jones, Blade, and bassist Jesse Murphy as is the pulsating, ebullient “Flipside’ with Jones animated piano spots and Murphy’s electric bass. “I’ll Be Gone” has the rhythm tandem joining in background vocals. On “Those Sweet Words” Costa joins on percussion and on “Falling,” where her piano especially sparkles, Jesse Harris adds acoustic guitar. 

The core trio is aboard for “Sunrise” from Argentina while “After the Fall” from Italy features trio with Christopher Thomas on bass. The closing “Black Hole Sun” is the longest and most impactful track on the album and Jones deeply feels it. At the outset, the audience has some misplaced applause and callouts that detract from the melancholic mood Jones strives to create, but the audience soon quiets down and allows Jones to deliver the tune with requisite sentimentality.

Jones’ multiple talents, warmth, and versatility have made her one of the most successful artists of the past two decades. This is a summation of some of her best material delivered organically, unfiltered, and stripped down by her core elite bandmates. It’s an unquestionably winning combination that will keep Jones’ star beaming as bright as it ever has.

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