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Sara Gazarek: Blossom & Bee

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Sara Gazarek has long drawn musical nourishment from Blossom Dearie, even though stylistically they are poles apart. Gazarek, who ranks alongside Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot and Kate McGarry among the most impressive postmillennial female jazz vocalists, exhibits none of Dearie’s crafty kittenishness. But her musicianship, built around a voice as rich and sturdy as polished mahogany, is every inch as intense. That Gazarek and Dearie are contrary yet complementary talents is hinted at on this new album’s title track, a delightfully mellow duet with John Pizzarelli about harmonized opposites. A second original, “Fly Away Birdie,” with its twinned themes of daring and perseverance, further nods to Dearie’s exceptionality.

Most of the 10 remaining tracks are plucked from the Dearie songbook, though none of them were distinctly hers, and each bears Gazarek’s unique stamp. “I’m Old Fashioned” progresses from reverie to celebration, the marvelous wordplay of Lorenz Hart’s “Everything I’ve Got” sparkles with sugarcoated venom, and “Lucky to Be Me” is bathed in contentment.

Moving beyond the Dearie playlist, Gazarek travels from the romantic bliss of Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest” to the gentle self-delusion of “Lies of Handsome Men.” And she joins Pizzarelli (on guitar) and organist Larry Goldings (also the album’s producer) for a swinging treatment of “Some of These Days” worthy of Peggy Lee. But the closer is purely honorific: a muscular rendition of Dearie’s Schoolhouse Rock! ditty, “Unpack Your Adjectives.”

Originally Published