Sara Gazarek's Five Favorite Vocalists

Jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek has been in Los Angeles for over a decade. In that time, she has established herself as one of the pre-eminent young interpreters of the Great American Songbook as well as tackling her own material and recent pop tunes. She embraces the story of a song, lilting through lyrical gems, buoyed by her great trio of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Zach Harmon. Before the band plays at Spaghettini this Saturday night, Gazarek put a lot of careful consideration into identifying the five vocalists who are currently inspiring her. Ask her at the gig and she might have a completely different list.


Sachal Vasandani
Royal Eyes

Gazarek: He is a young artist that I love because he does a phenomenal job of pushing the genre forward while also respecting the roots and the places that he's come from. Everybody has that one song that is stuck in there and that one line they can't forget. He has a tune called “Royal Eyes” that does that for me. It's hard to find really phenomenal singers who are also great lyricists. It's great and inspiring and he just knows his stuff. Every one of his records sounds different. Each record is a snapshot of who he was just in that moment.

Kurt Elling

Gazarek: When I was in school, most students would attest to the idea of the onion. You start with the Sarah Vaughans and Ella Fitzgeralds and then you peel back. Kurt was the first contemporary singer I listened to. Tierney Sutton played me his performance of “Downtown” and I was floored by his sense of rhythm, intonation and command. When I dug deeper into his recordings, I really fell in love with the way he crafted his band with his longtime collaborator, Laurence Hobgood. Musically, they grew up together and the way they approached arranging really influenced my band including deconstucting a tune and making it their own and the idea of inserting poetry into his music. I find him incredibly inspiring.


Ella Fitzgerald
I Can't Give You Anything But Love

Gazarek: Ella like a lot of young girls is the reason why I'm a jazz singer. There was one record that she had that I listened to over and over again. It was my junior year of high school. I literally didn't listen to any other record. To this day I can sing every lick. Very few people have the whole package. That beautiful but individualistic tone. She played with terrific musicians. I learned so much from her approach. She was a phenomenal improviser and had a really deep and sophisticated approach to lyrics. She was my first instructor but she didn't know it.

Kate McGarry
American Tune

Gazarek: Kate was the first singer I came into contact with on a professional level that was so warm and loving as a person towards other singers and she's that way in her music. There is a vulnerability and trust in her singing. She brings herself to the table and that was a new idea to me. The audience doesn't want a caricature. They want you and she has her own style, representative of her Irish roots. I have listened to her vision of “American Tune” 5000 times this summer.

Irene Kral
Where Is Love?

Gazarek: Like most people your influences change from moment to moment. I'm particularly taken with her duo with pianist Alan Broadbent. Really, really beautiful interpretations of different songs. I'm really drawn to 'Where is Love.” When she first comes in with the word “where,” I've never heard someone come in with a command of the instrument like that. She's singing to you. There is a simplicity that is disarming. There is a beauty and sophistication that makes it so easy to feel what she is trying to say. I don't hear that very often, particularly on recordings, when you can't see faces and body language. She has a phenomenal, crazy, incredible instrument and phrasing like nothing I've ever heard.

See also:
10 Jazz Albums to Listen to Before You Die
25 Greatest Orange County Bands of All Time
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