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Vocal Jazz - Released February 10, 2004 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released October 14, 2021 | Blue Note Records

Christmas music, which first became a common move for singers back in the 1950s, continues to exert a mystical pull on musicians from punk rockers to pop/jazz luminaries like Norah Jones. There are two paths to making a Christmas record: cover the classics or write your own tunes. Given that Christmas music is built on impossibly catchy one-hit wonders, and the list of successful songwriters includes such talents as Irving Berlin ("White Christmas"), Leroy Anderson ("Sleigh Ride") and Johnny Marks ("Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), the bar is high if you're banging out originals. On the other hand, presenting your version of the classics is equally daunting considering that you're following heavyweights like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Elvis Presley. Norah Jones decided to split the risk by molding classics into her style while also writing half an album of new Christmas originals. Twenty years past her early but still resonant hits like "Don't Know Why," and "Turn Me On" (both from blockbuster debut Come Away with Me) Jones makes her mark on the genre with the five tunes she penned, sometimes in collaboration with album producer Leon Michels. The single, a Jones original called "Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones)," is an enjoyably melodic holiday number. Her gospel-inflected "You're Not Alone" unfurls like a classic '60s country tune with an assembly of overdubs providing angelic vocals on the choruses and a pedal steel guitar ringing in the background. Pedal steel returns on "Winter Wonderland" where a synth sounds like timbales. The champ among the classics attempted, however, is "Christmas Don't Be Late" which gets a wonderfully slow, torchy arrangement. Memorable details include the oozy horns of Raymond Mason, Dave Guy and Leon Michels, the snare drum reverb, and Jones—singing her own harmonies—leaning into the "hula hoop" line. Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here," famous from the Peanuts cartoon, is a natural fit for Jones' piano-and-voice prowess. Berlin's "White Christmas'' gets a straight mid tempo cocktail jazz reading with Jones keeping up a brisk pace. On the other hand, the Elvis chestnut, "Blue Christmas'' gets an ultra-slow reading with Jones on piano and vocals, letting her impeccably tight vibrato stretch over this holiday lament. The other favorite that Jones makes her own is "Run Rudolph Run," best known as Chuck Berry's Christmas hit, which here benefits from a deep rhumba beat and reverb on her doubled vocals. Ever the mercurial talent, Jones' holiday dream is a worthy addition to the Christmas lexicon that's merry and bright and yet innovative where it counts. © Robert Baird/Qobuz


Norah Jones in the magazine
  • Qobuz: Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones
    Qobuz: Exclusive Interview with Norah Jones Ahead of her new album release this coming Friday, 7th October, Marc Zisman of Qobuz had the opportunity to sit with the world renowned jazz artist to chat about life, music, and more...