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Discernment. Online

'Her parentage is irrelevant, but since the media hype surrounding the release of her album includes this piece of trivia, some people might be forgiven for expecting a little of her father's inheritance in her music'


Will the real Norah please stand up?

Santosh Ramakrishnan thinks Norah Jones should be judged as a pop star with some jazz influence, but Jazzebel is convinced there is an agenda to play her up as a jazz singer


I 'discovered' your site today -- quite impressed... initially. Then I read the 'review' of Norah Jones's album. The reviewer, instead of focusing on the music, harps on the fact that it's not jazz. Big deal. In fact, in more than one forum Norah Jones has taken pains to state that this should not be looked at as a jazz album. In fact every other review that I've read describes the music as essentially pop with some jazz influence. So what's the reviewer's gripe? And please, why bring Pandit Ravishankar into this? Review her work on its merits, not on the fact that she's so-and-so's daughter.

Santosh Ramakrishnan

A marketing agenda?

Why did I review Norah Jones's Come away with Me as a jazz album rather than pop? There are several reasons, which are explicit or implicit in the review.

First, I picked it up in the jazz section of a local shop which, although not entirely accurate with its classifications, is usually quite good, and probably goes by classifications contained in lists issued by publishing companies.

Second, before seeing the cassette I had seen at least one article that talked of her long list of jazz education honours, her indebtedness to Billie Holiday and also incidentally about her being Ravi Shankar's daughter. Of course her parentage is irrelevant (I made that clear in my review, in fact) but since the media hype surrounding the release of her album includes this piece of trivia, some people might be forgiven for expecting a little of her father's inheritance in her music.

I consider it part of my duty to caution readers against doing so, and I think that duty extends to cautioning them against expecting jazz - I'd say being misled into expecting jazz - in the album. You might say my ``review'' was a bit of a (non-statutory) warning to my readers. As well as a lament. A lament that what seems to have been a promising jazz talent has chosen to waste it.

Incidentally, I maintain, despite what Mr Santosh Ramakrishnan, says (that all reviews have treated it as pop influenced by jazz), that this cassette sounds more like pop influenced by country. And although at the time when I said it, I confessed that my knowledge of that genre was limited, I have had it confirmed by an American friend who, besides being one of my two jazz gurus, is very knowledgeable about other genres of American popular music.

Since I wrote my review/ warning/ lament, I have seen a lot more in the media to strengthen my belief that readers may be misled, including more references to her parentage in the print media and on the Internet. Besides, her album was originally published by Blue Note, which is a speciality jazz label of EMI/ Capitol. Her name pops up at you when you log into the Blue Note website or look for jazz elsewhere. And just a week ago, when presenting the BBC World Service's weekly jazz programme Jazzmatazz, the London Times' jazz critic Alyn Shipton mentioned that singers such as Diana Krall and Norah Jones are bringing a whole new crop of listeners to jazz.

To me there seems to be an agenda to promote Norah Jones's album as jazz or as having some jazz credentials or influence. To all those who might expect something of jazz in this album, what's wrong with my saying it's disappointing from that point of view? On the other hand, if she's helping to recruit new listeners to jazz, one might say it isn't such a bad thing. Except that when these listeners pick up some real jazz, they may either be disappointed by it or turned off by Jones. More likely to be turned off by jazz, so perhaps I should issue another warning: if you liked this album and as a result expect to like jazz, you might be in for disappointment!


Published on 11 February 2003

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