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04/22/13

Amanda Brecker
Blossom
Decca Records

Over a decade ago, Brit boy wonder Jamie Cullum chose to call his breakthrough album Pointless Nostalgic, a title that would be ideal for this sincere but rather senseless exercise in backward glancing from Amanda Brecker. A 27-year-old vocalist of impressive jazz lineage—she is the daughter of Randy Brecker and Eliane Elias—her intent, at least in part, was to mark the 40th anniversary of Carole King’s landmark Tapestry. Eagle-eyed King fans might note a mathematical discrepancy—Tapestry was released in 1971—but Brecker’s album actually debuted two years ago in Japan, where she has a sizeable following, and is only now surfacing Stateside.

Actually, just five of Blossom’s dozen tracks are culled from Tapestry. Others, including the title tune, derive from various James Taylor albums of roughly the same vintage. Backing Brecker are drummer Russ Kunkel, from the original King sessions; bassist Lee Sklar, who accompanied King and Taylor on their Troubadour Reunion Tour; and keyboardist Larry Goldings, whose rich history includes work alongside Taylor. Their support is understatedly lovely.

Though the slight-voiced Brecker, whose leanings are decidedly more pop than jazz, does echo Taylor’s fragility and hints at King’s earthiness, she lacks the emotional depth of either. Producer Jesse Harris, who steered Norah Jones to platinum success, fails to generate the same frisson here. Apart from Taylor’s “Long Ago and Far Away,” which perfectly suits Brecker’s gossamer style, these remain pale replicas—tepid reminiscences of an era that predates her birth by some two decades. This is her parents’ nostalgia, not hers, and its second-hand nature shows too clearly.

Originally published in April 2013
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