(Sara Gazarek, voice, Josh Nelson, piano/B-3/glockenspiel; Erik Kertes, acoustic bass/guitar/guitarlele; Matt Slocom, drums; Guests: Seamus Blake, tenor sax/guitar/vocal; Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet; John Proulx, vocals; Supernova String Quartet)
I don’t have much information about Sara Gazarek and little is provided in the note booklet (though it does have the lyrics of all 13 songs – thank you), but the first thing that jumps out for me about this album is that the producer was John Clayton Jr., the Grammy-winning jazz and classical bassist. His arranging and sometimes production work with such top singers as Diana Krall, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Natalie Cole put him in good stead for this project. She should be very grateful for his participation. I did learn that Sara is 25 years old and this is her second album, and a terrific one I must say.
The songs come from such notables as Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen and Harry Connick Jr., plus several from her keyboardist Josh Nelson and one from guest sideman Seamus Blake. They avoid the ones everyone else is doing, bravo! The jazz element is minimal, in fact a couple of these are smack in country music country. The arrangements are a delight – varied, supportive, with a nice sophisticated folk/jazz flair. I was reminded of Peter Schickele’s arrangements from some of Judy Collins’ albums of years ago. Sara has a fine voice: vulnerable, fresh-sounding with good timing/phrasing, somewhat sexy but not trying to be, and thank God she sings on pitch unlike some vocalists I could name. Bear in mind I’m not particularly oriented toward vocalists of any sort, and I think Sara is solid!
TrackList: Let’s Try This Again, Northern Lights, Carey, Junk, Just Let Me Be, Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling, And So It Goes, I’ve Got a Great Idea, Dear Someone, Hallelujah, Makes Me Feel This Way, Without You, Original 4.
– John Henry