“Moments before taking the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival in late July, Norah Jones paused to reflect on her ties to the tradition it represents. “Sometimes I feel like a jazz dropout, you know?” she said in her trailer, wearing a floral print summer dress. “But whenever I’m around those people, from high school or college or my early days in New York, everybody makes me feel like part of the family.”
Jazz, or at least her homespun take on it, brought Ms. Jones one of the most decorated albums in recent history. “Come Away With Me,” her 2002 debut, took home eight Grammy Awards, including album of the year, and has sold over 11 million copies. She trained as a jazz pianist and singer (and signed with Blue Note Records) before sidling over to the countrified folk and low-gloss pop that marked her three subsequent albums, from 2004 to 2009, all certified platinum. A first-time Norah Jones performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, the world’s oldest and still one of its most prestigious, was both an overdue and unforeseen event. It’s no coincidence that the festival hit maximum capacity, for the first time in more than 15 years, on the day that her name was on the bill.
She made the occasion a public preview of her new album, “Day Breaks,” which brings her back into the jazz fold without taking the safe or familiar route. Due on Oct. 7, it features prominent jazz artists like the saxophonist Wayne Shorter and the bassist John Patitucci. And when she took the stage at Newport with several other musicians from the album, including the drummer Brian Blade, the message was clear: Rather than making some sort of prodigal return, she was accessing her musical core.“