Review: Norah Jones shimmers in intimate performance

Norah Jones with bass player Josh Lattanzi. Photo: Andre Gagne

Cool not casual. A Norah Jones concert seems to roll along like a great river of music. But it’s a river with many channels, tributaries and pools.

The water Jones swims in can be full of the blues, or some soft jazz, or even a hint of rock. There was certainly a hint of country and a twang of cowboy music in her performance at the TD Ottawa Jazz festival Tuesday evening under a welcome clear sky before a packed house of fans. Jones last played here a few years back at Bluesfest — less successfully.

The setting was more intimate on Tuesday evening and her presence was bigger this time around.

Jones, dressed in black with a smattering of sequins, was full value with her silky, sultry, sweetly sincere vocals and her solid piano skills.

These days she is touring with a new album called Begin Again which has seven distinctly different songs on them.

The concert opened with two strong songs back to back off the new record — Just A Little Bit and It Was You.

Then she reached into her toolkit and pulled out a familiar tune from her massive first album Come Away With Me. I’ve Got To See You Again showed Jones’s ability to sing a torch song.

That was quickly followed by Those Sweet Words off 2004’s Feels Like Home. Then she returned to Begin Again with the title track.

The cool blues of Wintertime, also off Begin Again, was yet another contrast in a diverse evening.

It was back to the beginning with Nightingale off the Come Away album and then a side turn into a cowboy song written with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy called Song With No Name. Jones has a real feel for torch and twang.

There was more country sounds with a honky tonkin’ performance of Hey You with Jones picking up an electric guitar. She stayed electric with a version of the title track off Come Away With Me.

She rambled with Travelin’ On of the record Broken Little Hearts and then waited as a string of fire trucks, sirens blaring, rolled by on Laurier.

She verged on anthemic with the song Flip Side aided and abetted by Peter Remm on Hammond organ. (He also played guitar and keyboards). The rest of the band, Josh Lattanzi (bass) and Greg Wieczorek (drums) fleshed out the solid ensemble sound.

And she closed in on a gospel feel with the song Love Carry On off the 2016 release Day Breaks.

The full house stamped their feet and Jones and co. obliged with three more songs.

Her first encore number was the rather political My Heart Is Full.

She sang:

I am tired, I am strong
I am human, I will listen
I can think, I will love
If we love, then we’ll love
We can love without hate

That was followed by her version of Neil Young’s Don’t Be Denied and the evening ended with a bit more country. Lonestar was written by Lee Alexander, her band mate in The Little Willies and a song she sang with Willie Nelson himself at the 25th anniversary Farm Aid concert in 2010.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.