Los Angeles-based Seattle native Sara Gazarek returned to Seattle for a series of performances at Jazz Alley recently, billed as a Seattle-only, new-album preview.
It's always great to have this talented singer back in town, nearly two decades after shining as a rising star in the Roosevelt High School jazz program. But this occasion was more notable for the music she presented to her hometown crowd.
It's a powerful, epic-yet-intimate collection of largely original songs and a few choice, at times surprising, covers. The overarching feeling and lyrical content reflect Gazarek's recent romantic tumult, and her commitment to grow from the experience and re-evaluate who she was as an artist and a person.
Live in the KNKX studios, Gazarek told our audience that before taking the stage, feeling particularly low, she realized that playing the part of the cheerful singer in the dress wasn't satisfying her.
Along came Kurt Elling. The veteran Chicago jazz singer pulled Sara aside after a performance one night and told her that she had the potential for great artistic growth. Limiting herself to the standard singer role wasn't enough.
Sara Gazarek's new release, "Thirsty Ghost," is "coming soon" she told us. It's safe to say this album is now highly anticipated, and left packed and appreciative crowds telling their friends they were there first.
Teamed with Gazarek's touring trio, she employed a trio of horns for her run at the Alley. All members of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Mark Taylor joined Travis Ranney's bass clarinet and the trombone of Scott Brown.
If that last name sounds familiar, it should. Brown has directed the award-winning jazz program at Roosevelt High School in Seattle since 1984. Many talented musicians have come up through the school, but Brown has a special place for this alumnus.
Gazarek gives him all the credit for sparking her love for music, and all of us in the KNKX studios and at Jazz Alley were honored to be a part of the lovefest.