Sara Gazarek’s CD Return To You, is about the many moods of love, and explores the many phases of relationships, both heartening and disheartening. Do not make the mistake of thinking that this is a booklet of love songs, for it is not. Instead, the unbelievably gifted jazz vocalist Gazarek brings to the surface our fears, our joys and our insecurities.
The album opens with the light melodic "Let’s Try This Again," a song about those times when communication breaks down and words like "pout" spring from this Josh Nelson/Sara Gazarek original composition. The phrasing is impeccable and the words and imagery simple such as "I want to go back to the time of smiles/And holding hands and summer rain and you."
Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and Gazarek combine forces for a sassy rendition of Nelson’s original "Just Let Me Be," a love taken for granted and misused. The singer taunts the betrayer of emotions with "Now you’re telling me ya want me back/Well listen up good-you ain’t getting jack!"
There is lost love and longing in the songs "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling" and Billy Joel’s "And So It Goes." The gentle and emotive Gazarek sings the words to "And So It Goes" paints a canvass of sorrow with a broken heart as her brush.
My personal favorite from Return To You is Gazarek’s cover of Harry Connick Jr.’s "I’ve Got A Great Idea." The singer romantically lures her guy in with vocals in this fun song that brought back memories of some of Peggy Lee’s better vocal performances. Nelson turns our heads with his Hammond B3 chops.
There are so many ways that Gazarek manages to present a song without ever breaking from her gentle interpretations. With the song "Dear Someone," she becomes a blend of Debbie Reynolds singing "Tammy’s In Love" and Patty Paige. Even Gazarek’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s lustful "Hallelujah" is quietly seductive.
One of Gazarek’s best performances on Return To You, comes in the form of her reading of Joni Mitchell’s "Carey." The singer’s clear succinct phrasing allows Mitchell’s colorful images such as "my fingernails are filthy," "beach tar on my feet," and "smash our empty glasses down," to shine through pianist Nelson’s splendid chops.
There are some incredible instrumental performances on this album that should not be lost in the shadows of Gazarek’s vocal magnificence. Canadian (now living in New York) tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake performs an awesome solo in the midst of the second track "Northern Lights." Josh Nelson’s light, sprightly piano chops serve as a great accompaniment to Gazarek as does Joni Mitchell’s "Carey" as well as anyone you will hear with the exception of Mitchell herself. The Supernova String Quartet consisting of Paul Cartwright (violin), Robert Anderson (violin), Miguel Arwood-Ferguson (viola) and cellist Jacob Szekely, contribute to the nostalgic mood of Paul McCartney’s "Junk," a song that strolls through assorted memories.
If you want to catch a young star on the rise, then visit your favorite digital store and haul out your credit card because Return To You is one of the best albums to appear in 2007.