Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I’d like to give Norah Jones a piece of my mind

Last week my excellent, sassy, funny, sympathetic and unfailingly encouraging sax teacher (who doesn’t read my blog) presented me with a transposition for my tenor sax of The Nearness of You, because she knew I loved the tune. My lovely teacher (who is a genius on woodwind but has to work very hard at piano) had even been practising the piano accompaniment so we could play together. I was so delighted and touched I wanted to hug her.

But she’d used the sheet music of Norah Jones’ version of the song, and when the tune is actually written down as music for a solo instrument - apart from the first line - it bears very little resemblance to the original fabulous, classic, haunting, romantic Hoagy Carmichael tune. WHY WOULD NORAH JONES MANGLE A CLASSIC TUNE? Why would she do that? Did she take lessons from Eva Cassidy (also a hugely talented singer) who definitively mangled Over the Rainbow, and San Francisco Bay Blues?

I have been struggling to practise this mangled version all week, because there are notes on the music in front of me and they don’t match up with the notes in my head i.e. Hoagy Carmichael’s notes. I want to play with my teacher – I want her to know how I appreciate her going to all this trouble - but it has been really really hard to learn this version. And I HATE it!

The following singers seem to understand that you can’t improve on perfection, and yet they have made the song distinctly their own.  Click on the links to hear them. If you want to listen to Ms Jones, you can find her for yourself!

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

Frank Sinatra

Michael Brecker and James Taylor

Jo Stafford

And this is Hoagy Carmichael, whose expression suggests he agrees with me…


galant said...

Keep trying to leave comments, but it just doesn't work for me - if you get this it will be a miracle!
Margaret P

galant said...

It seems like that comment has got through, at last. Now I can actually leave a 'comment'
which is I'm ashamed to say I've never heard of Norah Jones! But then I'm not particularly a jazz fan although I do love some big band music and music from the 1920s, 30s and 40s.
Margaret P

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Margaret, I am sorry - I had no idea the comments weren't working. And sorry to anyone else who has tried to comment recently. re Norah jones - i love her voice - i just don't like what she has done to the melody of this particular song.