April 16, 2021 Norah Jones – Till We Meet Again (Album Review)
Ask any music lover, no matter their preferred genre, and you will quickly hear about the impact that the loss of live shows has had on their spirit. The past year and counting has been hard for so many people for so many reasons, and yet, some of our favorite artists have taken this time to try and deliver their talents right into our homes. Such is the case with the inimitable Norah Jones, who issued her first ever live album, Till We Meet Again, on April 16, 2021 via Blue Note Records.
We last heard from Jones nearly a year ago when she gifted the world with Pick Me Up Off the Floor, a return to her roots and what we will lovingly term piano-based Jazz. A nine-time Grammy Award winner, who was most recently nominated in 2021 for Best American Roots Performance. Which is really no shock, as the exceptional singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has sold well in excess of 50 million records worldwide. While she initially emerged onto the world stage in 2002 with her astounding debut, Come Away With Me, Jones has gone on to forge a critically-acclaimed and commercially successful career with additional LPs like 2004’s Feels Like Home and 2016’s Day Breaks.
Despite her incomparable oeuvre of material, Till We Meet Again marks a special first for the prolific artist: her first ever live album. The 14-track collection takes listeners on a trip around the globe, from the U.S. to France, Italy, Brazil, and Argentina. Produced by Jones and Jamie Landry, it features some equally gifted musicians: Guitarist Jesse Harris, Bassists Christopher Thomas and Jesse Murphy, Drummer Brian Blades, Percussionist Marcelo Costa, Organist Pete Remm, and Flutist Jorge Continentino.
It’s interesting, but not something worth dissecting, that Jones chose to open and close her first live album with two cover songs. Particularly the choice to open with Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart,” with its delicious bass slapping paving the way for Jones’ talents on the piano. Just one listen to its languid, whiskey-soaked velvet performance is more than enough to prove why the track was included in the collection. (Well, that and the fact that it was featured on her “moody” debut.) And it is followed by a second track that was recorded in California in 2018: “It Was You” croons with a sultry passion that is oddly intimate considering the song was recorded at the Ohana Festival.
Recorded at Live au Campo in France, the timely questions of “Begin Again” allow the instrumentation of Jones’ talented bandmates to shine as she leads the charge with her flawless vocal. Meanwhile, a second track recorded on this day, “I’ve Got To See You Again,” delivers a truly stunning piano solo from Miss Jones before the seven and a half minute epic launches in full. Blending superb percussion, the standout moment is a prime example of this songbird’s enrapturing live delivery. With feverish longing oozing like honey from every word, the rabid need is undeniably communicated through Jones’ performance.
Clearly Brazil holds a special place in Jones’ heart, as she opts to include a multitude of songs performed at December 2019’s Vivo Rio in Rio de Janeiro. There’s the delicate prance of “Those Sweet Words,” an astounding display of musicianship on the enchanting “Just A Little Bit,” and the storytelling flare of “Tragedy.” Then a crystalline ivory waterfall introduces the lullaby of “Falling,” while Jones’ skill on the piano once again steals the show for “Flipside.”
Continuing the South American love fest, she offers up the bluesy “I’ll Be Gone,” performed in São Paulo, in 2019, as well as unleashing a fluttering “Sunrise” over Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But Europe, you are not forgotten: “After The Fall” was performed live in 2018 in Milan, Italy, with a fragile piano melody opening the moving offering. It is Perpignan, France, however, who lends us arguably her best-known track, “Don’t Know Why,” which steals the show like the tender embrace of an old friend.
The choice for the grand finale is perhaps the most surprising and rewarding inclusion, and Jones’ and co. are divine on their cover of “Black Hole Sun.” Clearly the audience is just as thrilled as this particular listener was to hear the melding of these two disparate musical worlds, creating an emotional tribute to the late Chris Cornell. Even more touching is the fact that the song was performed in Detroit, Michigan, by Jones, only five days after the Soundgarden vocalist’s death, sending him off into the heavens with the utmost of respect and love.
As this bittersweet moment marks the end of the collection, Till We Meet Again wraps up with a second familiar caress, one intended to say goodbye. And somehow, despite being recorded across the world over the span of several years, the album feels intimate, oftentimes sultry, and always soothing. With a voice that could easily be sold as a sonic panacea, Miss Jones pours every ounce of her being into her performances and we can feel every note. In this, Till We Meet Again is an impressive means of ushering live music back into our homes, and hearts, in this bizarre time in history. For this, Cryptic Rock firmly believes that Norah Jones is more than deserving of 5 of 5 stars.