Blossom & Bee
Sara Gazarek

L.A.-based vocalist Sara Gazarek’s fine offering, “Blossom & Bee” might be appropriately framed as a garden of bursting color, imagery and musical delight. Everything about this terrific recording shouts talent, beauty, rhythmic and melodic wit, and spirit. “Blossom & Bee” is an oh-so-sweet stinger by a dynamic vocal artist and the excellent musicians that superbly circle about her.

Brilliantly re-working a handful of well-known standards (“Tea for Two,” “I’m Old Fashioned”) and parlaying them with some intriguing original fare, Gazarek absolutely shines. The title cut and Sophie Tucker’s “Some of These Days” (with guest John Pizzarelli and organist Larry Goldings) are highlights. Backed by a sizzling rhythm section, Gazarek, a lyric sorceress, flies through it all. Hers is a beautiful spider-silk voice - solid and savvy, if not overpowering and dark - made for musical phrase, word-play, and for restrained swing. Displaying alls-to-the-wall confidence to leap, dive and skip over melody and yet hold her own over the top-notch rhythm section, Gazarek is a gem.

There are slight shadings of and tunes recorded by the late, hip-beyond-hip, Blossom Dearie here (“The Lies of Handsome Men,” “Unpack Your Adjectives”). However, Gazarek is indeed her own superb voice. She grabs melodies and lyrics with finesse and flair, regardless of their source. It’s apparent that she’s having a ball on this session.

Keyboardist Josh Nelson sparkles throughout and prods right along from Bar One with bassist Hamilton Price and drummer, Zach Harmon. They all buy into the swingfest with gusto.

“Blossom & Bee” has all the beauty, bite and superb workings of a winner. It’s as good – or better – than some recent Grammy®-nominated or winning female vocalist efforts. Dive in.

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Nick Mondello