Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Pure & Easy: Sara Gazarek is a jazz singer who has a clear and sweet voice that is pure delight. On her first album, Yours (2005), Sara mostly featured selections from the great American songbook. In 2007 she released Return To You on which she covered more modern singer-songwriters like Billy Joel, Gillian Welch, and Leonard Cohen. Paul McCartney's "Junk" was an inspired cover choice and although Joni Mitchell's songwriting genius is notoriously difficult to cover well, Sara turned in a really sweet jazzy version of "Carey".
The cover songs on Blossom & Bee are a great mix of the classic and the contemporary and because they are a whole lot less readily familiar, they mesh well with the originals to make Blossom & Bee a more cohesive Sara Gazarek album than her previous efforts. Veteran jazz guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli does a beautiful vocal duet with Sara on the title track, the album's centerpiece, a gem of an original song composed by Larry Goldings (music), with Sara Gazarek & Bill DeMain (lyrics).
Listen to "Blossom & Bee"
Photos courtesy of Sara Gazarek
The album opens with "Everything I've Got" on which Sara's breezy vocal and clever lyrics keep pace with an unstoppable jazz piano, complete with a nice piano solo. Larry Goldings' organ perfectly augments Sara's vocal and her superb band (piano trio) on "Fly Away Birdie", a slow and soulful original.
Blossom & Bee was produced by Larry Goldings, (from Sara's website) "Goldings is best known for his work as a jazz pianist and organist, but has gained recognition as a composer, arranger and producer who has collaborated with vocal stars James Taylor, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Tracy Chapman, Melody Gardot, India.Arie, and Luciana Souza." The album was mixed by Al Schmitt, a legendary sound man, whose career as a mixer, producer, and engineer spans four decades and includes many of the most iconic albums ever recorded. Here's the personnel on Blossom & Bee:
Sara Gazarek - Voice, Glockenspiel
Josh Nelson - Piano, Keyboards
Hamilton Price - Bass
Zach Harmon - Drums
Larry Goldings - Organ, Piano, Melodica
Special Guest John Pizzarelli - Voice, Guitar
Sara says, “I’ve always seen myself more as a lyric interpreter, I’ve never been drawn to flashy vocal gymnastics..." She has an impeccable sense of pitch, timing, and phrasing and her expressive range, based on her three albums to date, seems limitless. “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,” That is especially true on "Down With Love"(Yip Harburg/Harold Arlen) which mines the humor out of failed love.
Listen to "Down With Love"
According to Sara, "...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.” Blossom Dearie was a beloved jazz singer and pianist, whose career spanned the 1950's and 1960s. On Blossom & Bee, Sara concludes the album with "Unpack Your Adjectives" (George R. Newall), a honey of a tune that Blossom Dearie (her real name) once sang in the Schoolhouse Rock series of educational cartoons (1975).
Listen to "Unpack Your Adjectives"
With the artistic excellence of her three albums, Sara Gazarek has established herself as a unique and essential artist. While we were playing "Fly Away Birdie" someone in the room, hearing Sara for the first tim, asked if it was Norah Jones, then remarked that this was the best thing she had heard in a long time.
Triosence feat. Sara Gazarek - Where Time Stands Still
Where Time Stands Still
From L.A. to Cologne: Sara's listeners who waited five years for Blossom & Bee received a double treat this year when Sara guested with Triosence, a jazz group from Germany to make
Where Time Stands Still their first album with vocals after a ten year career as an instrumental band. Triosence has a beautiful sound that mixes pop, world, and classical influences into their jazz. Both Triosence and Sara's band are piano based trios so it seems like a natural match. This video explains how they came together.
The music on the video is the delightful opening track, "I Can't Explain". Triosence consists of principal composer Bernhard Schüler on piano, Ingo Senst on bass, and Stephan Emig on drums. The collaboration was more than just inviting Sara to sing. The music for all of the songs was composed by Bernhard. Sara and Bernhard co-wrote all of the lyrics except for two songs with lyrics written by Sara. "Summer Song" is one of the latter in which Sara interprets her own words. The guitar work is sweet too.
Listen to "Summer Song".
Bernhard has described the evolution of his compositional style and the direction of the band,
“When I started the band in 1999 I was very much into exploring the aspects of modern jazz. During college I wanted to use many complex harmonies and rhythms in my music. I mean, that's what you learn when you study jazz and that's what most jazz players like to do. Later I figured that music doesn't need to be as sophisticated as possible but rather as beautiful as possible in order to touch people. And that's what I want to do with my music now. I still use complex chords, meter changes and so on, but only to serve the melodies and the songs. It's always my goal to make complicated things sound simple and accessible. But since the complicated things are still there in the music it gives it more depth and meaning."
Bernhard has a gift for melody and his songs all have one foot firmly rooted in the jazz idiom while at the same time being pop songs of the highest order, comparing favorably to the work of the great songwriters that Sara sings on her own albums. "Only Friends" has one of those memorable melodies, beautiful lyrics, and a tasty piano solo.
Listen to "Only Friends"
The German cover art for Where Time Stands Still
There are additional guests on Where Time Stands Still. When Bernhard started looking for a vocalist for this project, he asked guitarist Frank Haunschild for suggestions. Frank had been Bernhard's professor for jazz theory at the Music Conservatory of Cologne. Frank recommended Sara, and he also appears as a special guest on the album. Bernhard wrote (about Sara), "After listening to her CDs “Yours” and “Return To You” I knew she’d make a perfect match for triosence." Here is the personnel.
Bernhard Schüler – piano
Ingo Senst – bass
Stephan Emig – drums
Sara Gazarek – voice
Frank Haunschild – guitars
Vitaliy Zolotov – guitars
Andria Chang - Violin
Lara Müller - Voice
With a total of eight musicians, the instruments and voices blend in a magnificent combination of performance and sound, produced by Bernhard Schüler.
Listen to "Let It In"
Courtesy of Triosence
Bernhard: "My longtime drummer Stephan on drums, Matthias Nowak on bass and Vitaliy Solotov on guitar flew over to the US to rehearse the songs together with Sara and perform a number of great concerts in California. It was a very inspiring trip that really took the whole project to a different level. One month later Sara finally came to Germany for a tour to prepare for the concluding recording of this album „Where time stands still“. The result is what I call 'european jazz with an american accent'" This is a tremendously enjoyable record; we really like Triosence and we are grateful to Sara for bringing them to the attention of American audiences.
Bonus Video: Check out Sara performing this live version of "Blossom & Bee" recorded at Vitello's Jazz & Supper Club in Studio City, CA, August 19th, 2012.
Sara Gazarek's Website
Sara Gazarek's Facebook
Triosence feat. Sara Gazarek's Facebook