Thursday night at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, Norah Jones played her first official show with her new band as she ramps up for the November release of her album The Fall. The album signals a change for Jones on several levels. For one, it’s the first she’s made without Lee Alexander who was her longtime bass player, producer of her last effort Not Too Late and boyfriend. The Fall is unquestionably a breakup album and it’s not hard to guess who Jones is singing about in songs like “You’ve Ruined Me,” “Back to Manhattan” and “I Wouldn’t Need You” which she performed on guitar and keys backed by a five-piece band.
The second change comes in producer. While Jones utilized Arif Martin for her first two Blue Note records and Alexander for the third, all of which sounded quite similar sonically, Jones looked to Jacquire King whose recent work included Kings of Leon, Tom Waits and Modest Mouse among others. It hears Jones playing more guitar-driven numbers that frequently make use more of subtle atmospherics. As Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall noted before the show, Jones was interested in connecting to a younger audience and delivering a young sounding record.
The third change is her band. Building her new touring unit from the ground up, it now includes guitarist Smokey Hormel (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), singer/songwriter Sasha Dobson and keyboardist Erik Deutsch who recently toured as part of Charlie Hunter’s trio and got his initial start with Fat Mama alongside drummer Joe Russo and others.
Jones worked her way through new material like “Chasing Pirates,” “Man of the Hour” (a whimsical but sassy song about how a dog is preferred to a man which she performed alone on piano), “Young Blood” and “December” rotating through keys, piano, electric and acoustic guitars. She also offered three excellent covers accompanied only by an additional acoustic guitar and bass. The first was Johnny Cash’s “Cry Cry Cry” which she had been known to do with her country side project, The Little Willies. Next was an uptempo take of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc” which she had debuted at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit last October. To close the show she delivered The Kinks’ “Strangers.”
Check out Jones doing “Jesus, Etc” at the Bridge School here