For Norah Jones, collaboration is key 

Hindsight, they say, is 20-20. So it wasn’t until recently, when Norah Jones looked back on her remarkably busy career, that she realized just how much side-project moonlighting she’s done.

So much, in fact, that she’s assembled a career-spanning collection of duets, “... Featuring Norah Jones,” set for release on Blue Note in November.

Collaboration, it seems, has become her middle name.

“I didn’t mean for it to be,” Jones says. “But, I’ve just kind of stumbled upon a lot of fun stuff, I guess. People always wonder how I get these people to sing with me, but they ask me to do it, and I just say, ‘Yes.’ It’s a no-brainer, really.”

It’s not like she’s easily distracted, says Jones, 31, who plays the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Friday.

“It’s just that random people ask me to record with them who I wouldn’t have thought knew my name,” she says. “And I don’t even know how it all got started, but Charlie Hunter had me sing on his record before my first album came out. So, that was probably the first thing I got to do.”

The track, a jazzy cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” is included on “Featuring,” alongside inspired team-ups with Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Herbie Hancock and the late Ray Charles.

But Jones — a nine-time Grammy winner whose cabaret-smoky 2002 debut, “Come Away With Me,” has sold more than 20 million copies — doesn’t favor only legends with her studio presence.

She appears on the upcoming Belle & Sebastian comeback and has chimed in with M. Ward, OutKast, Q-Tip and Ryan Adams — performances that all figure into this anthology, as do tunes from her extracurricular combos El Madmo and The Little Willies.

Jones thinks “Virginia Moon,” her summit with Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters, might be her strangest. “Well, not the weirdest,” she says. “But, the call I never thought I’d get. Dave just asked for my phone number to see if I wanted to sing on this song, and once I heard the song, it totally made sense. But it was totally unexpected.”

The keyboardist is still touring behind her recent bluesy experiment, “The Fall.” But, she’s touting her latest spinoff band, the rockabilly cover combo Puss N Boots. “I play lead guitar in it, which is really fun for me,” she says.

Jones has amassed so many duets, there’s a backlog. Like “Dreamgirl” with Andy Samberg’s Lonely Island. Or the head-to-orange-head croonalong with “Sesame Street’s” Elmo on her own “Don’t Know Why,” dedicated to the letter Y.

“Ah, the magic of puppetry,” she says. “I’d like to make an entire record with Elmo!”


Norah Jones

Where: Greek Theatre, Gayley Road, UC Berkeley

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $45 to $65

Contact: (800) 745-3000,

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Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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