Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sara Gazarek - NYC Jazz Record

Sara Gazarek does not sound like Blossom Dearie.
Thankfully, she isn’t trying to. Instead, the young, Los
Angeles-based vocalist is reaching a sound of her own,
a little less coy but no less swinging in her tip of the
cap to the late Dearie. Under the production guidance
of organist Larry Goldings, Gazarek sticks with her
working group (pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton
Price, drummer Zach Harmon) to craft a dozen tunes
that roll with a popping, straight ahead swing.

The album opens with a song associated with
Dearie’s 1957 debut, “Everything I’ve Got”. The upbeat
tale of physical violence is driven by Harmon’s crisp
drumming while Nelson takes a brief, two-handed
solo. Guitarist John Pizzarelli follows, lending a little
celebrity to the ensemble, dueting on the titular
Gazarek co-write. The two tangle in tight harmonies as
Gazarek works her higher range. She gets a little too
sentimental on a cover of Ben Folds’ pop love song
“The Luckiest” (Gazarek notes that both she and her
husband have a snippet of the lyrics tattooed with hers
clearly visible on her outstretched arm on the cover).
The album retorts with a little oomph, letting Harmon
drive on the bell of his cymbal during “Down With
Love” while Nelson gives an off-kilter solo that bounds
across the keyboard. A pair of well-worn standards
hover next to each other. “Tea for Two” gets a sultry,
slow rendition with Price getting room to amble gently
for a chorus while “I’m Old Fashioned” feels equally
hushed but the band quietly churns, peaking during
Nelson’s flickering solo.

The album closes with another nod to Dearie,
“Unpack Your Adjectives”, from the old Schoolhouse
Rock series. Goldings lends some blues organ touches
as Nelson is muscular on the piano, Gazarek adding
some sass to her delivery, which will hopefully make
more than a cameo in her next album.

Gazarek has a beautiful, pure voice that is
perpetually indebted to the lyrics. Rather than flighty
histrionics or bubbly mumbling, Gazarek sells the tune
with a straightforward, refreshing approach. Hopefully
it will be less than five years before her next outing.

Sara Gazarek @ NYC Jazz Record

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