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Culture Music Review: Norah Jonas is unrestrained on 'Begin Again'

Music Review: Norah Jonas is unrestrained on ‘Begin Again’

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Norah Jonas, “Begin Again” (Blue Note)

Norah Jones grew to be a household name after her 2002 debut “Come Away With Me” — an album that brought home five Grammys. She became a jazz sweetheart overnight, but quickly established that she did not want to be boxed into one genre.

Following her early success, Jones began to wander toward folk influences before dappling in electronica, collaborating with Danger Mouse with 2012’s “Little Broken Heart.” Jones made a return to jazz with 2016’s “Day Breaks” and has now released a collection of singles in “Begin Again.”

The seven-song project harnesses Jones’ ability to tap into other musical streams while maintaining a central jazz feel. Electronic influences are less pronounced than in “Little Broken Heart” yet more present than in “Day Breaks.” The subtlety is welcomed with the experimentation on “Begin Again.”

“My Heart Is Full” plays with reverb as Jones’ sultry voice echoes and bounces, commanding attention. The distorted vocals in “Just a Little Bit” make the song playful, without detracting from the quality of Jones’ writing. Mirroring techniques used by artists like Bon Ivor, “A Song With No Name” mixes the delicate with the experimental, striking a fantastic balance. It’s a distinct Jones’ song, with post-production vocal texture. “It Was You” pulls no bells or whistles, coasting into a jazz number decorated with horns and a thundering piano.

As a collection of singles, “Begin Again” is less concerned with generating a cohesive feel throughout the album — perhaps allowing Jones more creative license song to song. It’s an entertaining assortment of Jones unrestrained. And as a woman who has accumulated nine Grammys and has seven albums (not to mention two collaborative albums) under her belt, why have any restraint?

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