“I’ve always seen myself more as an interpreter of lyrics,” says Sara Gazarek. “I’ve never been drawn to flashy vocal gymnastics, so I naturally fell in love with the simplicity of her voice and delivery.”
The “her” that Gazarek, the energetic and crystalline jazz singer you should be listening to, is one Blossom Dearie. An incorrigible jazz legend with get-up-and-go in spades and a kind-hearted but acerbic tone that could sink a million ships, Dearie was one of the last distinguished supper club singers. Her ability to entertain was second-to-none and Gazarek seems to be following in her footsteps eagerly.
I first came in contact with the Seattle-born Gazarek thanks to her role on Triosence’s Where Time Stands Still. That particular project put her in the midst of a German jazz group and held her vocals in the light, where her “near-faultless tone and phraseology” amazed me.
With Blossom & Bee, the energy is different but the near-faultlessness still exists and the colours are brighter. Gazarek stands out from an overwhelming sea of jazz singers thanks to her contagious energy and her imagination, something that comes to life in every phrase. Her commitment to performance far tops those performers who simply flip through the sheets of the Great American Songbook. Her emotional connections are robust.
Beautiful pieces like “The Luckiest,” a number by Ben Folds that holds personal meaning to Gazarek and her husband, reveal themselves like flowers greeting the morning rain. The tune is nestled in Josh Nelson’s elegant piano and marked by Gazarek’s flawless phrasing. She breathes life and character into a number that is absolutely entrancing in its dreams of belonging, love and being really, really lucky.
Other songs snap with wit and prickly finish, like the terrifically springy “Everything I’ve Got” and the frisky Hamilton Price-guided “Down with Love.”
There’s also the extraordinarily stirring and clever “The Lies of Handsome Men,” a Dearie piece edged with melancholy. “Somewhat in the corner of my mind, I’m not a fool,” sings Gazarek with sophisticated regret.
I could go on and on about Blossom & Bee, a beautifully enthusiastic ode to sentiment, regret and finding love in lucky places. Gazarek’s tone is exquisite, but the real charm is her ability to connect to the music and her refusal to merely phone it in while tacking down technical details. Because of her lavish love for her art (and her knack for a little Schoolhouse Rock), it won’t be long before young jazz singers are eagerly following in Sara Gazarek’s footsteps.