Amongst a community teaming with startlingly gifted young singers, Sara Gazarek stands out as a particularly extravagant artist. Her first two albums introduced her singular sound and vision, steeped in the tradition of jazz but deeply informed by contemporary songwriters and performers. With Blossom & Bee, her highly anticipated debut release on the respected indie label Palmetto, Gazarek turns over an exciting, glistening new leaf.With five years between her acclaimed 2007 album “Return to You” (Native Language) and “Blossom & Bee,” it’s no surprise that Gazarek has grown considerably in the meantime. Working closely with the brilliant pianist/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.
As the title track might suggest, an undeniable thread running through “Blossom & Bee” is the irrepressibly buoyant spirit of jazz pianist, singer and songwriter Blossom Dearie. “When I looked at the 4 or 5 songs from our book that absolutely had to be on this record, I was surprised to realize they had all been inadvertently added to our repertoire over the years through our love for her.” From the upbeat and humorous “Everything I’ve Got,” their refreshing, glockenspiel laden take on “I’m Old Fashioned” and the meter-shifting “Tea For Two,” Gazarek acknowledges the direct correlation between these songs and Dearie’s.
But, rather than a tribute project, “Blossom & Bee” is meant to reflect the working repertoire of Gazarek’s stellar Los Angeles based group, featuring pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Zach Harmon. “We are so excited to finally be able to share something with our listeners that encapsulates the energy, humor, and sheer joy we feel in our live performances,” Sara states.
Born and raised in Seattle, Gazarek grew up without much exposure to jazz. In her early teens she was inspired by musical theater and dance, but she ended up discovering and falling in love with the jazz choir at her high school. The director, Scott Brown, became the first of several essential musical mentors, and he started steering her towards great jazz singers/musicians and classic jazz recordings.
When Gazarek arrived at the University of Southern California (where she is now on faculty in the Jazz Studies department), she was the only jazz studies vocal major in her class, and studied privately with vocalists Tierney Sutton and Carmen Bradford, pianist Shelly Berg and bassist/arranger John Clayton, who become one of her most important champions.
By 2003, people outside USC were starting to discover Gazarek. She 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). But now, with three highly acclaimed CD’s under her belt at the young age of 30, Sara is steeped in the jazz tradition, but is not afraid to embrace the music that moves her generation. And with the release of “Blossom & Bee” she is taking her rightful place as an original artist with a sound and concept that will continue to bloom.