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Sara Gazarek

By definition, any journey involves motion, from one point to the next. By that measure alone, Sara Gazarek’s artistic journey has been thrilling – and she’s just getting started. 

That may seem like an odd assessment, since Gazarek has already tasted stardom, and since she  turned 40 this past year. But in 2019, she took a giant leap in confidence and purpose with her twice GRAMMY-nominated album Thirsty Ghost, on which she unveiled previously shrouded layers of emotion and experience. Now she builds on that foundation with an arresting EP, Vanity. The title track harks back to Sarah Vaughan’s original 1951 recording, offering unusually stark nuance and introspection – qualities fit right into Gazarek’s game plan.

To put it simply, some singers concentrate on singing pretty, as Gazarek once did. Now she concentrates on singing truth.

Her hallmark craft and musicianship remain intact. “But prior to Thirsty Ghost,” says the L.A.-based singer and lyricist, “my records were beauty-focused instead of expression-focused.” In her quest for sonic perfection, she had downplayed the value of conveying her own experience and insights. She had traded consistency for the emotional connection that comes from making oneself vulnerable and taking risks. As she conceived and completed the self-produced Thirsty Ghost, however, her artistry reached a turning point. No longer afraid to fall short of predetermined standards, she had a better chance of soaring high above them. 

In making this pivot into a new lane, Gazarek received vital encouragement from Kurt Elling, the preeminent male jazz singer of the 21st century. “There was something that Kurt heard in my music early on, and anytime I played New York (Elling’s home in the 2010s), he came to my shows and often shared some valuable and heartfelt insights.” In 2015, she guested on Elling’s Passion World album. This occurred in the midst of what Gazarek describes as “a five-year period of exploring new collaborations and cultivating repertoire specific to things happening in my life. Kurt encouraged me to reflect those experiences in my art. He told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to walk away from what you think people want…  and to step into all of the depth, darkness, and radiance of who you really are.’ And that’s the first time I’d ever really done that.”

One such event – the near death of her mother in a horrific auto accident in 2016 – led Gazarek to face mortality on the most personal level. “My mother had to be brought back to life, then spent two weeks in the ICU and months in rehab. To have your life, your intentions – the way you’ve been existing, mirrored so vibrantly in front of you; to say, ‘Okay, who have I been, who do I want to be,’ after thinking the most primary relationship in my life was going to end: I took that with me everywhere.

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“She may well turn out to be the next important jazz singer” Don Heckman – LA Times "Return To You is one of the best albums to appear in 2007." Joe Montague - jazzreview.com “…A beautiful phrased and warmly expressive performance of jazz and pop standards” Gene Stout – Seattle Times "She is such an original and completely unpretentious singer, bringing a fresh vision to the jazz standards and the contemporary songs she chooses to sing." Shannon West – SmoothViews “Return to You is a complete gift that should endear Gazarek's fans even closer to her easygoing, youthful sound and charisma.” Paula Edelstein –All Music Guide “Gazarek seduces, conjures and cajoles elements from her songs with the aplomb of pro's long past” Larry Sakin – blogcritics.com “iPod worthy” -Parade Picks, Parade Magazine “On Return to You, Gazarek, a mere 25-year-old lies on the threshold of becoming a jazz great

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Primary Instrument



Los Angeles

Willing to teach

Advanced only


University Of Southern California, Adjunct Professor, Jazz Studies


Concert Schedule

Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Mack Avenue Records


"Desert Song" (Single)

Self Produced


Thirsty Ghost

Self Produced


Dream In The Blue

Steel Bird Music


Blossom & Bee

Palmetto Records



Native Language


Desert Song

From: "Desert Song" (Single)
By Sara Gazarek

Everything I've Got

From: Blossom & Bee
By Sara Gazarek


From: Yours
By Sara Gazarek



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