Sara Gazarek — Thirsty Ghost (Aug. 23, 2019) Pamela MÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃéndez ÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃâ Time (22 Feb 2019)•    Sara Gazarek acknowledges the pain. You’re bound to have it, if you take that fork. She’s astounding at mapping the pain, contorting with it, infusing it with nobility underneath elegance. And warmth. And the feeling that her music lives, as susceptible to bruising as anything else in the picture. — Andrew Hamlin, NorthWest Music Scene
•    “Thirsty Ghost is the type of album that can transform a career, winning over new fans and causing longtime observers to re~evaluate their estimation of the performer.”  — Bobby Reed, DownBeat Magazine
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Album release: August 23, 2019
Record Label: MRI/Thirsty Ghost
Duration:     64:36
01 Lonely Hours   5:58
02 Never Will I Marry   3:47
03 I’m Not the Only One   4:47
04 Easy Love   4:17
05 I Get Along Without You Very Well   5:43
06 I Believe (When I Fall in Love)   5:43
07 Jolene   4:33
08 Gaslight District   5:27
09 The River/River Man   6:59
10 Intro: Chrysalis   0:33
11 Cocoon   5:53
12 Distant Storm   6:11
13 Spinning Round   4:45
•   Sara Gazarek: voice;
•   Stu Mindeman: piano, organ, rhodes;
•   Alex Boneham: bass;
•   Christian Euman: piano;
•   Josh Johnson: alto saxophone;
•   Danny Janklow: alto saxophone;
•   Ido Meshulam: trombone;
•   Brian Walsh: bass clarinet;
•   Erin Bentlage, Michael Mayo: background vocals;
•   Keita Ogawa: percussion (2);
•   Aaron Serfaty: percussion (6);
•   Larry Goldings: organ (4, 8);
•   Kurt Elling: voice (12).
•   Engineer: Helik Hadar
•   Studio: Jim Henson Recording, Los Angleles, CA
•   Dates: August 20, 21, 22, 23
•   Mastering Engineer: Bernie Grundman, Los Angeles, CA
•   Written by: Hy Glaser 1; Frank Loesser  2; Sam Smith/James Napier  3; Larry Goldings/Sara Gazarek  4, 8; Hoagy Carmichael  5; Stevie Wonde  6; Dolly Parton  7; Nick Drake/Sara Teasdale  9; Alex Boneham  10; Brad Mehldau/Sara Gazarek  11.
∴⇓∴      Stumbling into a recording contract right out of college not only came with big management and an even bigger booking agency — it also came with what felt like big responsibility. At 20 years old, I was recording, touring, interacting with press and new fans. And, while everything in my career seemed to be moving in the right direction, I now see how this level of visibility at such a young age actually created a certain amount of pressure to “be the happy girl in the dress” that I felt my mentors and managers expected. I had been told that the ultimate goal was to craft a set of fun, light music that left people feeling happier than when they’d come in the door. And my band and I were giving it to them.
∴⇓∴      But three years ago (15 years in, then as a 34 year old woman), I found myself processing the dissolution of a marriage, the separation of a long term musical partnership, and my mothers almost catastrophic car accident. It was my dear friend and mentor Kurt Elling who spoke these very poignant words, and sent me on an incredibly transformative path:
∴⇓∴      “I see who you are… And it’s so much bigger, so much deeper, so much more multi~dimensional than your music is right now. Don’t be afraid to walk away from what you think people want from you — and to step into all of the depth, darkness, and radiance of who you really are. That’s what we are thirsty for. The honest, messy, beautiful YOU.”
∴⇓∴      The resulting musical journey took three years to complete — traversing a new relationship rife with doubts, lies, and infidelity, exploring new collaborations (with musicians Geoff Keezer, Larry Goldings, Stu Mindeman, Josh Johnson, and Alan Ferber), traveling abroad, endless questions, new compositions, risks… In the end, internalizing the idea that “A forest never grows, higher than the depths it knows // The warmth of sunlight comes and goes, but beauty only grows, When It Rains.”
∴⇓∴      “Thirsty Ghost” explores that honest, messy, beautiful place of hunger, thirst, wanting more — more connection, more transparency, a more whole hearted experience that occurs when we address the lessons that come with taking a deep look at adulthood. Through a series of new instrumental colors (including rhythm section, rhodes/organ, bass clarinet, alto sax, and trombone, percussion, and background vocals), some very special guests (Kurt Elling, Larry Goldings), new original material, contemporary covers (Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sam Smith), and jazz standards, my hope is that my audience will see their own whole hearted experiences reflected in this music — the light AND the dark.
•   Sara Gazarek has been working as a professional jazz singer since 2004. You can find plenty of vintage YouTube clips of her singing Great American Songbook material in a breezy, polished manner. A few years ago, things began to happen in her life. There was near~death tragedy in her family, her marriage fell apart and she began to wonder about her professional future. On this, her sixth album, her reactions to all this have resulted in a broadening and deepening of her art. She sings here with a new~found power and earnestness and draws her repertoire from a wide array of sources including Stevie Wonder, Nick Drake and her own writing.
•   The music on the set includes funky fusion tracks, acoustic ballads and hybrids of differing styles. Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well” gets a simple treatment with wistful voice against a piano trio while Frank Loesser’s “Never Will I Marry” is buoyed by a bubbly African rhythm. Cuts like “I’m Not The Only One” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe When I Fall In Love” have plush electric funk or soul backing and are brought to life through the earnest humanity of Gazarek’s singing. She shows a more subtle sensuality on “Easy Love,” cooing over sophisticated jazz~pop led by Larry Goldings’ organ and Stu Mindeman’s piano. The drama really comes out in Dolly Parton’s classic country ballad, “Jolene.” Over a turbulent rumble of piano and drums, Gazarek’s voice starts out intense and gets harder and angrier as the song goes on. By the end she is practically screaming at Jolene to keep away from her man.
•   Over its last few tracks, the CD takes a more philosophical turn. “Gaslight District” is a calming combination of jazz and folk impulses with Gazarek’s vocal supported by sensitive reeds. The horn section also provides a soothing backdrop to her singing of a Sara Teasdale poem “The River” which segues into Nick Drake’s magical “River Man” sung over a gently rocking electric piano. Bjork’s typically dreamlike “Cocoon” allows Gazarek to stretch her voice in a weightless atmosphere surrounded by softly pulsing bass and percussion and ghostly electric piano. Finally she sings her own words over the open sky landscapes of Brad Mehldau’s composition, “Distant Storm,” her voice firm with quiet conviction as she climbs through the folk~tinged melody with help from a rich alto solo by Josh Johnson and an elegant vocal interlude by her friend and mentor, Kurt Elling.
•   This is the finest music of Sara Gazarek’s career to date. Her voice is still glossy and polished but now it also has purpose and maturity. She sounds like a woman who has faced challenges and survived. The music on these tracks goes in several different directions but the depth and honesty of Gazarek’s singing ties them all together. As the picture on the CD cover suggests, this work comes directly from her heart.