Sara Gazarek, voice
Other musicians, TBA
Among a community teaming with startlingly gifted young singers, Sara Gazarek stands out as a particularly extravagant artist. Born and raised in Seattle, she grew up without much exposure to jazz. She didn't discover her calling until her senior year in high school, when her school band flew to New York City to compete in the Essentially Ellington Competition, hosted by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. It was the first year that the competition included a big band vocal feature, so Gazarek joined the band and ended up walking away with the first ever Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation Vocal Soloist Award.
When Gazarek arrived at the University of Southern California, she was the only jazz studies vocal major in her class, and she quickly discovered that she was way behind her peers when it came to jazz theory. She spent much of the first year off by herself studying for hours every day, listening closely to classic recordings by Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and Hank Mobley. She studied privately with vocalists Tierney Sutton and Carmen Bradford, pianist Shelly Berg, and bassist and arranger John Clayton, who become one of her most important champions. She also helped develop the JazzReach program, spending two years as a jazz choir director with inner city elementary school children.
By 2003, people outside USC were starting to discover Gazarek. The aspiring young vocalist won the prestigious DownBeat Student Music Award for Outstanding Collegiate Jazz Vocalist, a distinction that directly led to a spot on the Concord Jazz Festival Tour (with Oleta Adams, Karrin Allyson, and Diane Schuur). She soon released her debut recording, Yours, in 2005, following up with Return to You two years later.
With Blossom & Bee (2012), Gazarek's highly anticipated debut release on the respected indie label Palmetto, the singer turns over an exciting, glistening new leaf. With five years between Return to You and Blossom & Bee, it's no surprise that Gazarek has grown considerably in the meantime. What's fascinating is the way that she's tapped into sources of inspiration consonant with her own less-is-more sensibility. Working closely with the brilliant pianist and organist Larry Goldings, who produced the album, Gazarek and her band have crafted a program of emotionally expansive standards, inspired contemporary fare, and uncommonly memorable originals, all delivered with her insouciant sense of artistry.
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