Album of the Week: Sarah McKenzie, ‘Without You’

On Without You, pianist, composer and singer Sarah McKenzie offers a star-studded celebration of the Brazilian jazz tradition.

Throughout her career, Sarah McKenzie, the accomplished jazz pianist, composer and singer, has captivated audiences worldwide at prestigious venues and events, such as the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Blue Note and SFJAZZ. With six critically acclaimed albums to her credit, McKenzie’s latest full-length, Without You, stands as a star-studded tribute to the rich tradition of Brazilian jazz and its long-lasting influence, featuring an exciting blend of originals and covers.

The genesis of Without You traces back to 2017, when McKenzie was invited to perform at the grand opening of The Blue Note in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was during this memorable event that she crossed paths with two Brazilian jazz greats: guitarist Romero Lubambo and cellist Jacques Morelenbaum. In early 2020, McKenzie contacted them to initiate a remote collaboration to record her rendition of “Corcovado (Quiet Nights)” in a trio setting. The success of this recording, coupled with its viral internet presence and subsequent invitations to esteemed festivals in Italy, France and Portugal, spurred the trio to continue their collaborative efforts.

Expanding on the original trio, Without You features the talents of bassist Geoff Gascoyne, drummer Peter Erskine and percussionist Rogerio Boccato. Additionally, guest appearances by Bob Sheppard on flute and soprano saxophone enrich the ensemble’s sonic palette and textures. Together, they deliver unique interpretations of compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim, seamlessly interwoven with McKenzie’s four original pieces and select covers, including such beloved bossa nova classics as “Chega De Saudade (No More Blues)” and “The Girl from Ipanema.”

From the emotionally charged title ballad penned by Lubambo, where McKenzie’s lyrics evoke the pangs of lost love, to the playfulness of “Quoi, Quoi, Quoi” and the brisk samba rhythms of the original piece, “Mean What You Say,” Without You navigates through a diverse spectrum of emotions, atmospheres and rhythms. Whether revitalizing cherished classics or unveiling invigorating original compositions, McKenzie and her stellar ensemble showcase their artistry by crafting a soulful tribute to Brazilian jazz. The result is not only a vibrant and sensual testament to their musical prowess but also a captivating journey through the expressive landscape of their collective creativity.

Sarah McKenzie’s new album, Without You, is available now via Normandy Lane. Order it here.

Featured photo by Kharen Hill.

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