Singles & EPs
About Sara Gazarek
Los Angeles-based vocalist Sara Gazarek is a lauded performer and educator known for sophisticated jazz and standards-based style. She initially rose to acclaim while still in high school as the first winner of the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation Outstanding Jazz Vocalist Award before issuing her 2005 debut, Yours. She has worked often with pianist Larry Goldings, including 2012's Blossom & Bee and 2019's Grammy-nominated Thirsty Ghost.
A native of Seattle, Gazarek discovered the joy of jazz vocals in high school and credits her band director with having a huge impact on her development and subsequent future course. As a high school senior, she was awarded the prestigious Ella Fitzgerald Foundation Outstanding Jazz Vocalist Award for which she performed at the Essentially Ellington Festival at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City with Wynton Marsalis. After high school, she attended college in Los Angeles' Thornton School of Music at USC, studying with artists like bassist John Clayton and singers Tierney Sutton and Carmen Bradford. Also during this period, Gazarek spent two years working with elementary school children in an inner-city school. In 2003, she received the Down Beat Student Music Award for Best Collegiate Vocalist. Shortly afterward she was invited to join a tour of jazz women vocalists including Oleta Adams, Karrin Allyson, and Diane Schuur as part of the "Concord Jazz Festival on Tour" series of concerts, which traversed the U.S. in 2004.
Bassist and USC mentor Clayton produced Gazarek's 2005 debut, Yours, a critically lauded set of Great American Songbook standards. Clayton was also on board for 2007's similarly inclined Return to You. On both albums, she was accompanied by the same band, all Los Angeles-based musicians, including her longtime collaborator pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Erik Kertes, and drummer Matt Slocum. She then joined Germany's Triosence for 2010s Where Time Stands Still. Two years later, she delivered the standards-heavy Blossom & Bee. Around this time, she also joined the jazz studies faculty at the University of Southern California.
In 2016, Gazarek paired with Nelson for the duo album Dream in the Blue. Following a difficult period that included a divorce and re-evaluation of her creative direction, she returned with the expansive Thirsty Ghost in 2019. The album featured a guest appearance by vocalist Kurt Elling, and found Gazarek tackling originals alongside covers by Dolly Parton, Nick Drake, and Stevie Wonder. It also garnered the singer her first Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. ~ Richard J. Skelly