Sara Gazarek, the new artistic director of the DeMiero Jazz Fest, will perform at concerts Friday and Saturday at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. (Barb Hauser New)

Sara Gazarek, the new artistic director of the DeMiero Jazz Fest, will perform at concerts Friday and Saturday at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. (Barb Hauser New)

DeMiero Jazz Fest returns today with new artistic director

Sara Gazarek, an internationally touring singer, has curated a lineup with up-and-comers in jazz.

Today, vocalist Sara Gazarek is lauded as one of the rising stars in jazz.

But about 20 years ago, the Seattle native was just another student attending the DeMiero Jazz Fest in Edmonds. Gazarek sang with Roosevelt High School’s choir at the time.

The three-day festival, which returns today for its 43rd year, offers jazz workshops for students and concerts by professional musicians.

Gazarek has been named the festival’s new artistic director and one of several headliners who will perform Friday and Saturday evenings at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Gazarek replaces world-renowned vocalist Dee Daniels, who stepped down after seven years to focus on her jazz career.

“It’s an honor,” said Gazarek, 37, in a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles, where she teaches vocal jazz at the University of Southern California. “It’s really exciting to have an opportunity to headline a festival I attended as a young person.”

Gazarek’s career has spanned the past 14 years and included international tours, six albums and top 10 rankings on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Charts for her blend of contemporary and traditional stylings.

The DeMiero Jazz Fest began in 1977 as an educational opportunity for jazz greats to mentor students. It’s named after Frank DeMiero, who launched Edmonds Community College’s music program and started the school’s jazz chorus, Soundsation, in the mid-1970s.

Around 65 choirs — including those from area high schools such as Edmonds-Woodway, Snohomish and Mariner — will attend this year’s clinics, workshops and master classes taught by clinicians and one of the headliners, Seattle vocalist Johnaye Kendrick.

Ten of the schools will be featured in a special concert tonight at the North Sound Conference Center, formerly the Edmonds Conference Center, on Fourth Avenue.

Rob Hyatt, chief administrative officer for the jazz fest, said in addition to adding new workshops into the rotation — such as a vocal health clinic — Gazarek has curated a lineup with artists not previously on the festival’s radar.

“We get to have this entire new fusion of talent from a different direction,” Hyatt said.

Gazarek said that while this year’s headliners may not be widely known right now, they’re on the cusp of being the next big thing in jazz.

The festival’s all-star band — pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Chris Symer, drummer Zach Harmon and saxophonist Mark Taylor — were handpicked by Gazarek and will accompany all the performances.

Joining Gazarek on stage for Friday and Saturday’s performances, which begin at 7 p.m., are:

Duchess, performing Friday evening, is a vocal jazz trio whose music is reminiscent of the Boswell Sisters, who were popular in the 1920s and ’30s. The members — Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou — blend classic and contemporary stylings with phrasings that emulate a big-band horn section.

Michael Mayo, who will perform Friday and Saturday evenings, is a New York-based vocalist who has performed at the White House, the Kennedy Center and the Panama Jazz Festival. He also has shared the stage with artists such as Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock and Theo Bleckmann.

Johnaye Kendrick is a Seattle singer who attended the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and has been featured with the Ellis Marsalis Quartet and the Grammy Award-winning New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Kendrick performs Friday and Saturday evenings.

Kimi Locke, the 2019 Dee Daniels Vocal Jazz Scholarship recipient, is a 17-year-old vocalist from Newport High School in Bellevue who will perform Friday and Saturday evenings. She has won numerous awards and contests, and has sang with a variety of well-known jazz musicians.

Soundsation, Edmonds Community College’s jazz chorus, is directed by Kirk Marcy and is comprised of about a dozen vocalists, pianists, guitarists, bassists and drummers. The group performs Saturday evening.

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

If you go

A special concert featuring 10 high school choirs attending the jazz festival is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 7 at the North Sound Conference Center (formerly the Edmonds Conference Center), 201 Fourth Ave. N., Edmonds. Tickets cost $20 and are available at the door.

Concerts featuring Sara Gazarek and other jazz performers will be held at 7 p.m. March 8 and 9 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N., Edmonds. Admission for each concert is $35 for general, $25 for students and $70 for VIP. For more information, go to www.ec4arts.org or call 425-275-9595.

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