Los Angeles-based performer Sara Gazarek is an acclaimed vocalist and educator known for sophisticated jazz and standards-based style. A native of Seattle, Gazarek discovered the joy of jazz vocals in high school and credits her high school band director with having a huge impact on her development and subsequent future course. As a high school senior, she was awarded the prestigious Ella Fitzgerald Foundation Outstanding Jazz Vocalist Award for which she performed at the Essentially Ellington Festival at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City with Wynton Marsalis. After high school, she attended college in Los Angeles' Thornton School of Music at USC, studying with artists like bassist John Clayton and singers Tierney Sutton and Carmen Bradford. Also during this period, Gazarek spent two years working with elementary school children in an inner-city school. In 2003, she received the Down Beat Student Music Award for Best Collegiate Vocalist. Shortly afterward she was invited to join a tour of jazz women vocalists — including Oleta Adams, Karrin Allyson, and Diane Schuur — as part of the "Concord Jazz Festival on Tour" series of concerts, which traversed the U.S. in 2004.
Bassist and USC mentor Clayton produced Gazarek's 2005 debut, Yours, a critically lauded set of Great American Songbook standards. Clayton was also on board for 2007's similarly inclined Return to You. On both albums, she's accompanied by the same band, all Los Angeles-based musicians, including her main collaborator pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Erik Kertes, and drummer Matt Slocum. She then joined Germany's Triosence for 2010s Where Time Stands Still. Two years later, she delivered the standards-heavy Blossom & Bee. Around this time, she also joined the jazz studies faculty at the University of Southern California. In 2016, Gazarek paired with Nelson for the duo album Dream in the Blue. ~ Richard J. Skelly