After countless summer evenings swaying to the untiring bluesy melodies of Come Away With Me, Sunrise and umpteen other gems alike, there was no way I could bottle my excitement when news came that contemporary jazz sensation, Norah Jones, was set to release her sixth studio album. A deeply awaited come-back indeed from the renowned artist, who’s fusion of jazz, blue-eyed soul and country music has earned her nine Grammy awards.
It was to my misfortune, however, that I found Day Breaks was not the breakthrough I had expected. A soothing and skilful album it certainly is, but sadly lacks the creativeness an enduring fan may have hoped for. Composed of nine jazz-prevailing originals and three covers from the likes of Neil Young, Duke Ellington and Horace Silver, the album pinpoints Jones’ and her fellow musicians’ adroit instrumental flair more than anything else. Alongside eminent saxophonist Wayne Shorter, organist Dr Lonnie Smith and drummer Brian Blade, there undoubtedly is a musical dexterity encompassed within the LP, but is that truly enough to create an iconic album?
Whilst the songs should be praised for their technically flawless executions as well as Jones’ mesmerising piano improvisations, the same cannot be said for the display of the ensemble as a whole. As the tracks play on, the whole feel of the album falls short from tedium and lacks the spark of originality and the dynamism I was searching for.
Perhaps the cloudy, mellow vibes are in fact intentional, to melodiously narrate Jones’ lyrical themes of romantic and social disorientation? Her politically inclined piece, Flipside, for example, depicts her incomprehension and sorrow at the on going socio-racial discriminations prevalent around the world: “I can’t stand when you tell me to get back! / If we’re all free then why does it seem we can’t just be?”. A particularly poignant yet colloquial set of lyrics, that puts our society into perspective. The crescendo from low-key, rhythmic verse to a vibrant and powerful chorus only enhances her passionate questioning even more, her raw vocals constantly accompanied by the soft plummeting of the drums.
The fifth song on the album, And Then There Was You, is one of the rare pieces in this album that halted me in my thoughts and enthralled my senses for three, short, breathless minutes. Fluctuating to the soothing tones of Jones’ immaculate voice, I found my mind rewinding back to the passionate artist I had grown up with, the Norah Jones I knew. The sweet simplicity of the lyrics warms the heart, and adds realistic meaning to her emotions:
“I thought love was a shame,
So I threw it away.
And then there was you.”
But when it comes to the zesty jazz I was longing for, Jones’ debut single Carry on and her cover Don’t Be Denied cannot be ignored. A relishing fusion of blues and country vibes, she takes us back to her Texan roots, and fills us with passion. I especially couldn’t stop wavering to the juicy and irresistible flare of the synth, letting out a melody at times soft and at others, deliciously groovy.
Whilst I would most definitely indulge in those particular tracks again, the remainder rapidly morphs into trivial background noise, a great shame for such an iconic singer/songwriter.
But who knows… it could grow on me. A slightly prosaic album it may be, but an undying and marvellously talented artist she remains nonetheless.