16 Oct

An Interview with Sara Gazarek - A rising star on the jazz music scene

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In a community teaming with startlingly gifted young singers, Sara Gazarek is a stand out. Walking the paths of Ella Fitzgerald, she captivates the audience and converts each live in a unique experience. On her fourth album and debut for the Palmetto label, “Blossom & Bee,” Gazarek and her band have crafted a program of emotionally expansive standards, inspired contemporary fare, and uncommonly memorable originals.

1-Your vocal style is hard to encapsulate because it has many facets. Who are three of your favorite vocalists and how have they influenced or inspired you?
 I love so many different singers across a number of different genres, but if I had to narrow it down to the jazz genre, I’d choose… Kurt Elling: his voice is so beautiful and dynamic, and he pulls so many different colors and timbres to create an emotional spectrum that you don’t see from many singers. I also really love his approach to arranging, and he puts on a great show. Kate McGarry: she’s one of the most honest singers out there. She seems to use vocal affectations and mellismas only when  it serves the story of the song, fully committing herself musically to the story of the song. It’s a moving experience to see her live. And then, of course, I’d have to pick Ella Fitzgerald. She’s the penultimate jazz singer – incredible story teller, improviser, playful musician, phenomenal sense of swing and rhythmic intensity, beautiful instrument. I love her!

2-In your opinion, what sets "Jazz"? apart from any other style of music? What does Jazz mean to you personally?
 Jazz is sincerity. It’s one of the only musical art forms where the artist is meant to bring their most personal and genuine experience to the song. It’s not a manufactured character, created in a board room by a team of marketing executives, the artist told what to wear, what to sing, what to post on Facebook. It’s a sincere reflection of expression, a development of vocabulary tools used to tell a feeling, a story, a mood.

3-It has often been said that Jazz works best on stage. As you're both a recording artists and an avid perfomer, what do you think about that?
 Most of my friends agree that recording in a studio is a different experience than performing live – often we feed off of the energy of the audience, and vice versa. There’s also something very thrilling about performing live, knowing that what you put into the world is temporary. There’s more room for risk and mistakes, which often inspires more energy and commitment.

4- On a more general level: What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
 As an audience member, I love walking away from a performance, movie, art exhibit, etc, feeling or thinking something different than when I walked into the room. To be transported somewhere else is a gift that I’m always grateful for. If that means laughter, tears, self reflection, feeling in awe of someone’s talent, however it manifests, I’m happy to have been changed.

5-You’re based in southern California but you’ve started appearing in New York more regularly. Have you noticed differences between the west coast & east coast jazz scenes?
 There’s a long standing noticeable difference in the jazz scenes between coasts, I’d guess rooted in the cool vs bop movements. But these days, 40-50 years later, folks are more bi-coastal, and I think people are influenced by each other quite a bit more. Especially with as much touring and collaborating as we’re all doing, you see a bit more homogeny. Although I do think there are just more clubs in NYC – on any given night you could walk between 4 to 5 clubs and hear something fantastic. We have about 2 maybe 3 jazz clubs in LA, and you’d have to drive between them. And in NYC there are more “sessions” going on. People just getting together to play. That happens in LA, but in my experience, it’s a little less frequent.

6-How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
 For me, when I compose, there’s a lot of detail that goes into the lyric and the story. I’m creating something that will be there for a while, so I want to make sure it encapsulates the vision of the experience – I’m in my own head a little bit. In improvisation (either scatting, or approaching a lyric but trying to stay in the moment in my delivery), I’m much more in my body.

7- Could you tell us a few words about your performance at Gazarte ?
 I’m delighted to have my whole band with me (voice, piano, bass, and drums). We’ll be playing some of our favorite arrangements from our 3 studio albums, as well as songs from my most recent release – a duo project with my pianist and long time collaborator, Josh Nelson. The music is deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, but we have a number of original compositions that we’re happy to share, as well as arrangements of contemporary songs by Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Nick Drake, etc.

Interview by Patricia Graire - October 2016

Last modified on Monday, 17 October 2016 12:56

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