Amanda Brecker, "Blossom" (Decca)
This collection of James Taylor and Carole King songs marks Amanda Brecker's U.S. recording debut, but the singer has a rich musical pedigree. She's the daughter of noted jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker and Brazilian singer-pianist Eliane Elias, and has performed with her mother since she was 8.
Her background gives her the confidence to perform classic songs like "So Far Away," "Something in the Way He Moves" and "Sweet Baby James" in a relaxed, respectful manner -- with a few jazzy embellishments -- that caresses the lyrics without over-the-top vocal displays.
Producer Jesse Harris brought in several King-Taylor collaborators such as bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, whose tasteful accompaniment enhances but never overwhelms the vocals. Brecker gives her most impassioned performance on "You've Got a Friend," tastefully backed only by jazz pianist Larry Goldings, a frequent Taylor partner.
The only original "You Were Mine" hints at Brecker's songwriting talent. While "Blossom" showcases her vocal talents, her next album hopefully will reveal more of her musical personality.