An Evening with Sarah McKenzie at Blue Note
Monday June 1, 10:30 pm
One event on Monday June 1, 2020 at 10:30 pm
After the great success of Sarah McKenzie’s 2017 disc, “Paris in the Rain” (Impulse! Records), the 31-year-old pianist, singer, and composer returns with the poignant, “Secrets of My Heart”. The former disc opened more opportunities for her to perform around the world in such far away places as Brazil, Korea, Japan, and also established her in the United States. Its title song became one of her signature tunes and is one of the highlights of her live shows.
While embarking on her music career, being so far away from her family in Australia tore her. Sometimes, she contemplated abandoning music for the security of being with her family. “I went through a big coming-of-age process because I had to really decide how much I love this dream versus how much I love being with my family,” she explains. “How much am I prepared to sacrifice for my dream as a professional musician? And is it OK to follow that dream? And is this constant traveling the dream itself? I had some poignant questions to ask myself since the release of Paris in the Rain. And that process resulted in Secrets of My Heart.”
For “Secrets of My Heart”, she reunites with noted Australian composer, arranger, and events music director, Chong Lim, who produced her first two discs – Don’t Tempt Me and Close Your Eyes. “He’s the guy who introduced me to Wayne Shorter’s Native Dancer and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Stone Flower. We always had a great connection; he knows me inside and out,” she says.
Recorded in New York City, “Secrets of My Heart” exudes cosmopolitan flair with its lineup that includes French bassist Pierre Boussaguet and Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Bocatto alongside guitarist Dan Wilson, drummer Donald Edwards, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts, and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber (all of whom based in the United States), and a cameo appearance of bossa nova legend Danilo Caymmi on flute on “De Nada“. Secrets of My Heart documents McKenzie’s burgeoning brilliance interpreting 20th-century jazz standards with her penchant for crafting sterling compositions that will surely become jazz standards in the 21st century.
Even though McKenzie hailed from Melbourne and studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, she started her career in Europe, first living in Paris, then London. And while she’s absorbed great harmonic and lyric-writing knowledge from the Great American Songbook, she says that Secrets of My Heart reveals her time spent in Europe, especially from a harmonic standpoint. Her residency in Europe also afforded her the opportunity to sit around the piano with the iconic composer and arranger Michel Legrand. “His style differs from the classic American Songbook standards,” McKenzie says. “Michel is a little bit more lyrical and French; his music is a little bit more Debussy or Ravel-influenced than the classic American Songbook standards. To have been able to spend time with him at the piano was one of the highlights of the year.”
“Secrets of My Heart” opens with McKenzie’s transfixing rendition of John Barry and Leslie Bricusse’s “You Only Live Twice,” which showcases McKenzie’s comely piano soloing as much as it does her alluring singing. She also delivers an exquisite makeover of Stanley Styne and Donald Kahn’s classic “A Beautiful Friendship” and a gutbucket take on Dinah Washington’s “Come on Home.”
She concludes “Secrets of My Heart” with a tour-de-force homage to another hero, George Gershwin with “The Gershwin Medley” an instrumental on which she plays snippets of “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Summertime,” “The Man I Love” and “I Got Rhythm.” “Ultimately, this album is about me embracing the unknown and going with love,” McKenzie explains. “I’m so lucky to be able to play my music for a living.”