This is my first album review, so bear with me.  I may not know the various technical terms, but I know when jazz is good.

I’ve been waiting for someone like this to come along — and for me to find her.  Diana Krall is too condescending; Tierney Sutton is too high-minded.  Ever since Miles Davis, jazz has experienced a rift.  If I had to describe it in a sentence, I’d say that one side wants a melody and the other doesn’t.  (Listen to a much more eloquent rant than mine from Jason Marsalis here.)  Vocalist too seem to struggle with this.  Which kind are you?  Do you go for nonsensical scat and dissonant accompanists? In my opinion, desperate to be on the leading edge and be noticed, too many talented singers opt for noodle jazz, or something like it.

Finally, a fresh, lovely voice who can swing a standard.  Thank you, Sara Gazarek. And thank you, John Clayton, for taking her under your wing (as if I needed another reason to be in awe of that lovely man).

She finds and explores beautiful, hidden nooks and crannies of a song without making it an exercise.  Neither is this a rehash of the same old torch or list songs.  Gazarek embraces her youthfulness with a lilting “So This In Love” from Cinderella, a grooving “Unpack Your Adjectives” from School House Rock, and the theme from the 2003 film Down With Love.

But this is not to be confused with immaturity.  Far from it.

She holds her own against veterans Larry Goldings and John Pizzarelli.  She delivers a heartbreaking “The Lies of A Handsome Man.”  It’s a well-crafted ballad of a woman somehow between naivete and wisdom — a place that is necessary evil, that has to be looked at square in the face.  Gazarek shows us she’s been there, with an ironic smile.

I look forward to many more years of her clear voice, well-balanced accompaniment and lively spirit.  Long live jazz.

www.saragazarek.com

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