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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

Jones is waxing poetic

November 23, 2003|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

More Norah Jones music predating her rise to Grammy glory is about to surface with the release of an album by the group Wax Poetic, featuring the singer on two songs.

But unlike her strong, bluesy efforts with the Peter Malick Group, released recently on an EP billing the act as "featuring Norah Jones," this one comes with no resistance from her record company and shows her in a different light from her "Come Away With Me" album.

Jones actually was a full member of Wax Poetic, a New York collective founded in 1997 by Swedish-born jazz musician Ilhan Ersahin. Jones, then 19, auditioned for the group after moving to New York from Texas in 1998 and immediately was added to the lineup. She stayed with the band for a year before leaving to focus on her solo career.

"I auditioned a bunch of singers," Ersahin says. "And she came in and after three seconds I was, 'Wow, she's amazing.' "

The two remained friends after Jones left, and in August she and the group rerecorded two songs that she and Ersahin had co-written and that were staples of her original tenure. Those songs, "Tell Me" and "Angels," are the centerpieces of "Nublu Sessions," an album due for Feb. 10 release from independent Ultra Records.

Jones is one of several vocalists, though, with N'Dea Davenport, spoken-word artist Saul Williams, Jamaican dub reggae legend U-Roy and Turkey's Nil Karaibrahimgil also featured, as well as Marla Turner, the band's current full-time singer. The music is a vivid blend, weaving Brazilian and Arabic elements in a variety of atmospheric textures.

Although representatives of Jones' label, Blue Note Records, say they wished the Malick sessions had not been released, a company spokesman adds that there is total support for the Wax Poetic release. Jones, meanwhile, is continuing to work on her follow-up to "Come Away With Me."

Ersahin hopes Jones might be able to make live appearances with the group, though his primary interest is to keep the lineup flexible.

"The idea is Wax Poetic is a band, but with different guests and flavors depending on where we are," he says. "It's mining dance and world music and jazz, some dub reggae vibe as well. The aim is to find our own sound blending all this."

So who reads these things?

The Smoking Gun Web site features a collection of pop star concert riders -- the contractual demands for extravagant or idiosyncratic on-stage technical requirements and backstage amenities. But what may be the funniest rider in use today hasn't made the site yet.

The reunited Iggy & the Stooges have been using the standard technical instructions to send up the traditions and practices of the concert world with hilarious results. The spoof starts with the very first line:

"We need one [1] monitor man who speaks good English and is not afraid of death."

It goes on from there. A caution to keep the stage free of obstructions states, "This means no lighting or monitor cables, A/C power boxes, tiny toy tugboats, spotty 14-year-old 'soundmen,' television evangelists, substances related to the manufacture of creosote, plastic seahorses, bailiwicks, crepescules or kooks. That way Iggy can run around in his customary manner, like a crazed running-around-type-thing."

Also noted is that the drum setup needs two heavy-duty straight stands, "but we're equal opportunity employers, so gay stands may apply also."

And that's just a taste. The rider, a copy of which was faxed to Pop Eye, was written by the band's British tour manager, Jos Grain, apparently just to see if anyone actually reads these things.

Small faces

* Chris Douridas, the former music director of Santa Monica public radio station KCRW-FM (89.9), has moved from one cyber-titan company to another. Having spent the last few years at America Online overseeing music programming and hosting the Sessions@Aol performance and interview feature, Douridas now will be doing similar work for Apple via its iTunes music store, for which he will be creative programming consultant. Douridas will continue hosting his Saturday KCRW show "New Ground" and serving as music supervisor for major movies as he did during his AOL stint.

* Jack Johnson has signed two acts to his new Brushfire Records label, tapping fellow surfing pro Donovan Frankenreiter as his first roster addition and musical mentor G. Love (who left Epic Records after five albums) as the second. Johnson produced Frankenreiter sessions recently in Johnson's Hawaii studio with plans for the album to be released in March. The two are touring together in Australia. A new G. Love album is due in early summer.

* The Paris Gun has nothing to do with a scandal-tinged hotel heiress -- it's the name of a side project anchored by Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd with Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock and longtime friend Cory Franklin. The trio is planning to make an album in 2004 after the Lips finish work on the long-in-progress "Christmas on Mars" movie.

* Ween videotaped three sold-out show in Chicago recently with plans to use the material for a concert DVD, due in the spring.

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