Graced with an “impeccable” voice (Winnipeg Free Press) and hailed as an artist that “may well turn out to be the next important jazz singer” by the LA Times, Sara Gazarek has been one of the leading lights of an impressive generation of jazz vocalists since her brilliant emergence at age 20. From the outside, her subsequent career has been the picture of success: five acclaimed albums, an ardent fanbase, enthusiastic reviews, and opportunities that have taken her around the world, leading to thrilling collaborations with some of her most respected and celebrated peers.
In recent years, however, that picture has seemed increasingly incomplete; the light, breezy Sara that greeted audiences with a laugh and a song has seemed further and further removed from an ever more complicated reality. On her latest album, Thirsty Ghost, Gazarek finally brings her musical expression stunningly into phase with her emotional maturity. The “exquisite taste, bright wit and creative vitality” hailed by WNPR remain, but those qualities are potently shaded by a rich undercurrent of complex feeling and whole-hearted realities.
Given the personal and professional upheaval Gazarek has endured since her last solo release, the playful Blossom Dearie tribute Blossom & Bee, it would be surprising if she had emerged unchanged. Both her marriage and a long-term musical partnership dissolved, followed by a tumultuous romantic relationship rife with doubts, deception, and infidelity. Most shocking of all was the near-fatal car accident suffered by Gazarek’s mother, suddenly confronting the singer with the very real possibility of losing a loved one.
Thirsty Ghost reflects on those experiences, lacing the dazzling light that’s always been present in her music with a deep vein of heart-rending sophistication.
While these recent changes have seemed seismic, audiences have marveled at Gazarek’s evolution on illustrious stages around the world, where she’s headlined and worked with such modern jazz greats as Billy Childs, Fred Hersch, and Helen Sung. Her mature sound has also been guided and inspired by mentors and collaborators like Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling, bassist John Clayton Jr., keyboardist Larry Goldings, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonist Seamus Blake.