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Album review: Sara Gazarek's 'Blossom & Bee'

July 03, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • Sara Gazarak's "Blossom & Bee" was released in June.
Sara Gazarak's "Blossom & Bee" was released in June.

Sara Gazarek, "Blossom & Bee"

(Palmetto)

Though perhaps not as well known among the latest generation of jazz vocalists that includes Gretchen Parlato, Jane Monheit and, to an extent, Esperanza Spalding, Sara Gazarek proves herself every bit as worthy of attention with a sweet and affectionately delicate new album "Blossom & Bee."

A graduate of USC's Thornton School of Music, Gazarek has shown broad tastes in her song selection on earlier albums "Yours" and "Return to You," which, in addition to familiar standards, included songs by Gillian Welch, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.

Backed by a gifted L.A.-based band that includes bassist Hamilton Price, drummer Zach Harmon and longtime collaborator Josh Nelson on piano and organist Larry Goldings (who also produced the album), Gazarek offers what initially seems a loving homage to Blossom Dearie but still allows ample room to underscore her own unique vision.

The late singer's presence can be felt most overtly on a subtly shape-shifting "Tea for Two," an achingly spare "The Lies of Handsome Men" and Dearie's "Schoolhouse Rock!" favorite "Unpack Your Adjectives," which features a bouncy, funk-shaded groove.

A percolating "Down With Love" continues the album's upbeat run through the classics, as does a reworking of the vaudeville-era classic "Some of These Days," which features gentle guitar filagrees from John Pizzarelli.

But as gifted as Gazarek is with making the vintage sound contemporary, she's equally skilled with pulling off the opposite with the achingly intimate "Fly Away Birdie" (co-written by Nelson) and a shimmering cover of Ben Folds' "The Luckiest" with a slow-burning vocal that strips the original to its romantic essence.

It's the kind of trick that's been a hallmark of jazz vocalists up and down the tradition, which Gazarek sounds poised to bring well into the future.

ALSO:

Jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato sings without borders

Esperanza Spalding gets her 'Grammy moment' at the Oscars

Review: Walter Smith III, Ambrose Akinmusire pack the Blue Whale

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