Norah Jones took liberty with her blockbuster success to set out on a musical walkabout, spending a good portion of the decade following 2004's Feels Like Home experimenting, either on her own albums or on a variety of collaborations. Day Breaks, released four years after the atmospheric adult alternative pop of the Danger Mouse-produced Little Broken Hearts, finds Jones returning home to an extent: it, like her 2002 debut Come Away with Me, is a singer/songwriter album with roots in pop and jazz, divided between originals and sharply selected covers. Such similarities are immediately apparent, but Day Breaks is much slyer than a mere revival. That term suggests a slight air of desperation, but Jones comes from a place of confidence on Day Breaks, happy to demonstrate everything she's learned over the years. Often, these tricks are deliberately sly: she'll pair her torchy original "And Then There Was You" with a woozy, bluesy cover of Neil Young's "Don't Be Denied" that winds up evoking Come Away with Me, then follow that up with the dense, nocturnal rhythms of "Day Breaks." She threads in versions of Horace Silver's "Peace" and Duke Ellington's "African Flower" while inviting saxophonist Wayne Shorter and organist Lonnie Smith in to play -- moves that signal that there's a strong, elastic jazz undercurrent to Day Breaks that means this record breathes more than her debut. Such a sense of quiet adventure gives the record depth, but what gives it resonance are the exquisitely sculpted songs. Jones' originals feel as elegant as time-honored standards, and all her covers feel fresh. The former speak to her craft, the latter to her gifts as a stylist, and the two combine to turn Day Breaks into a satisfying testament to her ever-evolving musicianship.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine