Norah Jones' unique upbringing helped her to develop her an inspired blend of jazz and pop vocals with tastes of country, blues, and contemporary folk. She was born in bustling New York City. Her father, Ravi Shankar, was an internationally renowned musician. She eventually moved to Texas with her mother. Texas proved to be a rich musical community and her parents exposed her to a variety of musical styles. Jones was inspired by the music of Billie Holiday and Bill Evans at a young age. During her time at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she was exposed to the world of jazz. She won the Down Beat Student Music Award for Best Jazz Vocalist and Best Original Composition in 1996. She received Best Jazz Vocalist Award again in 1997. Her musical success was well on its way by the time she left for the University of North Texas.
She worked towards a degree in jazz piano for two years before moving to Greenwich Village in her native New York. Jones had planned to return to college in the fall but was sucked in to the coffeehouse and jazz club scene that allowed her to express her musical voice. She began concentrating on her own songs and began to appear regularly with the funk-fusion band Wax Poetic. Soon, she had surrounded herself with other songwriters and was able to form her own group with Jesse Harris on guitar, Lee Alexander on bass, and Dan Rieser on drums. By 2000 the group had recorded a handful of demos for Blue Note Records. The demos showcased Jones' voice and composition and she was soon signed to a jazz label.
Jones began working with Charlie Hunter on songs for the Analog Playground in 2001. While recording with Hunter she continued perfecting her own compositions and brushing up on her stage show to prepare for her solo recording debut. She also spent much of the year in live venues with Hunter. Finally, in 2002, Norah Jones released her first hit. Come Away With Me was an instant hit. It was nominated for five Grammies. Some blamed the success on her beauty and her father's background in music, but it soon became clear that Jones' talent was her own. The title single from the album shot to the top of the charts after receiving heavy radio-play. The album was more pop than jazz, but it appealed to fans across genres. It features elements of jazz, including jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Brian Blade.
The Blue Note label seemed pleased with the success of the album even though it had moved away from their traditional jazz. The album sold more than ten times more copies than any other Blue Note release. They encouraged Jones to tour to promote the album. Many dates were scheduled, concentrating heavily on the west coast. Tickets to the shows were in high demand. Jones' history at coffeehouses and clubs in New York added to her stage presence. She also has a natural ease and charisma when singing her original songs to packed crowds.
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