Sara Gazarek, an emotive, crisply swinging vocalist who graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2000, is in town next week for her first full-length engagement at Jazz Alley. She is thrilled about playing Seattle’s most prestigious jazz house, but a performance in May at the Blue Note, in New York, had an even deeper resonance.
“We were performing the same weekend Roosevelt was at Essentially Ellington,” said the Los Angeles-based singer, referring to the jazz competition that her alma mater has regularly dominated. “It was really meaningful to realize that 14 years ago, I was at that festival, performing at Avery Fisher Hall with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. It’s because of the educational opportunities at that festival that I realized I wanted to be a jazz singer.”
Lucky us. Gazarek, who serves as adjunct music faculty at the University of Southern California — “I feel like my musicianship has quadrupled since I joined the faculty” — has new material in store for Seattle fans. That includes her new lyric for Duke Ellington’s vaporously seductive tune, “Single Petal of a Rose,” and a clever pairing of Nick Drake’s “River Man” and a setting of a Sara Teasdale poem, “The River.”
Gazarek is here with longtime musical partner Josh Nelson (piano), Hamilton Price (bass), Zach Harmon (drums) and Larry Koonse (guitar). She said there will also be “surprise guests.”
7:30 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, July 10 and 13, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, July 11-12, at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., Seattle; $24.50 (206-441-9729 or jazzalley.com).