Norah Jones returns to the piano jazz-tinged pop that introduced her to the world in 2002, showing a versatility her debut record did little to suggest. It's not a knock on subsequent work to say her return to those earlier sounds is a welcome one. I like Little Broken Hearts, her collaboration with noted producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton, but the warm familiarity in the opening bars of "Burn" quickly remind us of why so many listeners were enchanted by her in the first place.
The multi-platinum, Grammy-winning Come Away With Me was a nocturnal record with spare arrangements centered around her voice and piano with minimalist support of guitar, upright bass, and drums and those sounds are again prominent but much has happened along Jones' musical journey in the nearly 15 years since. One of Day Breaks greatest achievements is how it returns her to those earlier records without ever sounding like a self-conscious effort to recreate or replicate them.
The gentleness of the debut are now filtered through stylized, noirish sounds and compositions. You can practically see men in fedoras and women in pill box hats and scarves through the haze of cigarette smoke as songs like "Burn" and "It's A Wonderful Day For Love" play. There are also more expansive arrangements beyond those nightclub sounds that make excellent use of string and horn sections. Jazz legend Wayne Shorter is a featured soloist on a number of these songs and Brian Blades' understated drumming anchors the rhythm section.
Perhaps the biggest winner, if you will, on this record is the one thing that never changed throughout the various sonic experiments throughout her career: her stunning, impossibly beautiful voice. It can't be contained or diminished no matter what she sings but it is perhaps at its purest when surrounded in a more jazz-oriented setting.
The only knock on Day Breaks is a minor one that may not upset most listeners which is the lack of a classic, memorable single. The record sets a mood and plays beautifully from beginning to end but few of the individual pieces stay with you as one song flows into the next. It's not a fatal flaw because while there may not be a standout, there are also no major missteps, making this a consistent, compelling, enjoyable listen from beginning to end.