Sara Gazarek is a vocalist and educator, originally from Seattle and based in Los Angeles. Her 2019 album Thirsty Ghost, her seventh as leader, was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Sara Gazarek. Photo credit Shervin Lainez
First album you purchased as a “jazz musician”?
The first jazz album that made me fall in love with the genre was Ella & Basie! by Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. I spent an entire year absorbing every lick, every inflection, every subtle nuance – in essence, internalising everything that I value and try to carry with me as I move through my own music.
What are you listening to right now?
Laura Mvula, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Emily King, Gerald Clayton, Erin Bentlage, Johnaye Kendrick, Amanda Taylor, Meshell Ndegeocello, Michael Mayo, Kristin Berardi, Astyn Turr, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ambrose Akinmusire… There’s always more.
It’s always really exciting to see/hear fresh new voices and/or fall deeper in love with those you’ve already admired, which lockdown has given me the chance to do. Michael Mayo hipped me to this old Ella recording that I wasn’t aware of (good lord, she was swinging her ASS off). The vault is endless, and so is the learning.
Have you done or watched any livestream gigs since lockdown?
Yes! I’m LOVING all of the Patreon artists. I follow Cecile, and love her and Sullivan’s performances. Camila Meza does a great job over there too. It’s a beautiful way to connect with fans, but still be financially appreciated for art that has taken years and years to craft. I know, for säje, on our Patreon, it’s exhilarating to connect with our fans, and to come up with content that we think they’ll love. And for $2 a month, it’s a small way to support artists who have really taken a hit.
While I think it’s great idea to hop on and do quick little live things online here and there, I’d hate to normalise the idea of free art, for any artist who has devoted their lives to their craft.
I’ve also been loving Kurt Elling’s cocktail hours. He’s so thoughtful and compelling, and is incredibly inclusive and supportive of other artists. Janis Seigel and Lauren Kinhan have a cool “Vocal Gumbo” thing going, and a lot of the proceeds go to different organisations. I’m also really proud of the venues who have worked hard to get artists up and performing virtually. Sam First in LA has a good thing going, and the LA Jazz Society is really trying to create space for that as well. It’s really great.
Most memorable time in your career or education?
Oh jeez, this is a huge question! Honestly, right now feels incredibly important. Not just for me, but for the world – for the jazz community, for music education. It makes me so excited to see humanity finally taking a look at ways in which we can honour, respect and celebrate the Black musicians who created the music genres that the industry continues to celebrate and profit from. I’m also incredibly excited to see so many jazz and music programmes across the country taking a look at their curriculum and the ways in which systemic racism and white supremacy has played a major role in alienating Black students from the experience.
Instrument you wish you played?
Piano. Hands down. Pun intended.
Has this time in isolation inspired any new creative ideas?
Honestly, it’s been a very productive time for the women of säje — the female vocal quartet that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. These women are so inspiring and creative, and the music feels so important. We all live in different cities, so the format hasn’t changed. We’re just continuing to work remotely, and are happy to be sharing music with the world.
What are you most looking forward to once this is over?
Performing for real, live human beings – with real, live human beings.
A chance to plug a friend’s music right now…
Honestly, I would just plug säje, individually and as an ensemble. Each woman is a powerful composer and performer in their own right. And the music we’re making feels so very special to me. It’s full of intention, and heart, and strength. I just hope the world loves it as much as I do.