Sara Gazarek


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When an older jazz singer warns a younger jazz singer that vocal jazz is an extremely crowded, brutally competitive field, it isn't just rhetoric -- vocal jazz (like just about any other area of music) has a lot more applicants than openings or opportunities. Therefore, aspiring young jazz singers need to do everything possible to stand out and make a personal statement -- and on the more memorable parts of her debut album, Yours, Sara Gazarek stands out. While the West Coast singer (who was in her early twenties when bassist John Clayton produced this album in April 2005) still has some growing and developing to do, she definitely has potential. Gazarek's approach is best described as vocal jazz by way of a singer/songwriter aesthetic; one hears influences like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Abbey Lincoln in her vocals, but a healthy appreciation of Carole King and Joni Mitchell asserts itself as well. In fact, one of the best things on the album is an interpretation of Mitchell's "The Circle Game." Unfortunately, the warhorse factor is much too strong on this 51-minute disc; do listeners really need to hear a singer who was born after the '70s embracing "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," "My Shining Hour," "Cheek to Cheek," and other Tin Pan Alley warhorses that have been totally beaten to death over the years? There is so much jazz history attached to those songs that younger, newer jazz singers are better off avoiding them and turning their interpretive powers to gems that haven't been beaten to death -- "The Circle Game," for example. But an excess of warhorses doesn't erase the fact that Gazarek has an appealing vocal style; although subtle and understated, she projects a lot of warmth and gets her emotional points across. All things considered, Yours is a noteworthy, if inconsistent, debut -- and Gazarek is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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