By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
September 17, 2014
As is typical at the beginning of each performing arts season, there is such an array of entertainment options that it can make one’s head spin when deciding which ones to experience. Such was the case over the weekend when this writer had to choose what to cover for Examiner.com. Ultimately, the decision was made to see a singer/songwriter who is captivating and five siblings whose virtuosity has captured the attention of the classical music fans. What they both had in common was not only their youthfulness but also their uncommon talent.
She was once touted by the L.A. Times as the “next important jazz singer,” but as Shannon Forsell, artistic and managing director of the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, pointed out while introducing her, Sara Gazarek has definitely arrived. And the singer-songwriter demonstrated as much during “Sara Gazarek: Blossom & Bee” Friday, the first of her two night engagement at the downtown nightspot.
Gazarek was accompanied by her seasoned band consisting of Joshua Nelson on piano, Hamilton Price on bass and Zackary Harmon on drums in a program that included songs from “Blossom & Bee” (thus the show’s title), her 2012 CD, jazz standards and others.
A voice with a translucent quality, impeccable phrasing and diction, a sunny personality and engaging warmth endeared the 30-something Gazarek to a sold out audience, seemingly captivated by her performance that was characterized by an ambience that was relaxed and intimate. During comments, consisting of information about each song and tid-bits about her background and career, the easygoing Gazarek also conveyed sincerity.
Act 1 highlights included a superb arrangement of the Beatle’s “Blackbird,” which was combined with “Bye Bye Blackbird”; “O Pato” (A Duck), in Portuguese and English; “I Don’t Love You,” a song about running into someone you have broken up with and who happens to be doing great, which showed off Gazarek’s song writing gift and “Unpack Your Adjectives,” from “School House Rock”— a favorite of Gazarek’s music idol, jazz singerBlossom Dearie.
Act 2, like the previous one, showcased a lot of exceptional arrangements including that of “After You’ve Gone,” composed in 1918. Another was a combination of Nick Drake’s “Cello Song” and “Without a Song,” featuring a marvelous piano executed by Hamilton.
At one point, Gazarek enticed the audience with an offer of one of her CDs. After singing“Where is Love?” from “Oliver,” which was merged with “Someone to Watch Over Me, she asked audience members to guess what show the second tune was from. As it turned out, no one was able to guess correctly, but “Someone” is from the 1926 musical “Oh, Kay!”
“Some of These Days,” a song made famous by Sophie Tucker, was performed as a homage to “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.” Gazarek shared that she had once played Tucker in a high school review and decided to include the tune on her “Blossom & Bee” CD after her mother sent her a video of her performing it back in the day.
“Summer Song” was another of Gazarek’s originals that she performed. It is a Latin flavored song with a Samba beat, for which she wrote the lyrics and pianist Bernhard Schuler composed the music. It featured a solo from her outstanding drummer, Harmon, and was her closing number.
Gazarek, who tended to sing softly anyway, was sometimes difficult to hear. Perhaps due to a poor sound mix, she was overpowered by the trio at various times throughout her performance. Aside from that imperfection, however, her show was very smart—reflecting the artist’s great taste, vitality and singular appeal.
After Gazarek exited the room, many in the audience who gave her a standing ovation stayed on their feet applauding as she exited. They clearly expected her to return for an encore. Instead, they received an unexpected treat in the person of Indy resident Josh Kaufman, the recent winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” as he was introduced to the crowd. At the Cabaret to promote his Saturday Indy Jazz Fest concert, Kaufman, accompanied by Rob Dixon (normally a well-known local saxophonist), captivated the crowd with a gorgeous rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s (who once played piano at the Columbia Club) iconic “Stardust.”
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"One of Indianapolis' most fashionable downtown nightspots..."Tom Alvarez, Examiner.com