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Sara Gazarek: Return to You

Somewhere near the midpoint of Norah Jones and Diana Krall sits Sara Gazarek. Chronologically she is, at age 25, closer to Jones, and echoes her sweet, folk-influenced temperament. But the suggestion of Krall’s rich, disciplined jazz wisdom seems layered atop the Jonesian languor. And there’s something more to Gazarek, a charming peculiarity unique to her. It’s as if she’s just heard a really good joke and is still basking in rays of warm humor as she begins each song on Return to You, her sophomore follow-up to 2005’s Yours, featuring the same trio-pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Erik Kertes and drummer Matt Slocum-that helped make her debut disc such a delight. It’s a quality evident throughout, most obviously on Joni Mitchell’s playful “Carey,” Harry Connick’s bouncy “I’ve Got a Great Idea” and the joyful “Just Let Me Be” (one of three originals penned by Nelson). But it’s also there on less-likely tunes, shading impressively fresh interpretations of Bill C. Graham’s mellow “Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling,” Billy Joel’s reflective “And So It Goes” and Leonard Cohen’s softly celebratory “Hallelujah.”

Originally Published