Sarah McKenzie is an Australian jazz pianist, composer, vocalist, and bandleader whose breezy technical style, songwriting acumen, and pronounced lyrical sense of swing have drawn comparisons to Blossom Dearie and Diana Krall.
McKenzie grew up in Perth and began playing piano at the age of nine. She attended high school at West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, the same institution that gave rise to such talents as Hugh Jackman, Marcus Graham, and Lisa McCune. Upon graduation, she attended college and completed a Bachelor of Jazz degree in composition, won the Jack Bendat Scholarship, the Hawaiian Award for "Most Outstanding Jazz Graduate." She also won a spot as a backing vocalist on Michael Bublé's Call Me Irresponsible tour.
After relocating to Melbourne, she studied with James Morrison for six years and won a scholarship through her involvement with his Generations in Jazz development program. She signed with ABC Records and cut her first recording for the label in 2011. Entitled Don’t Tempt Me, it was comprised of classic pop, blues, and jazz tunes as well as originals. The attention it garnered won her an opening slot for Chris Botti's tour that year.
In 2012, McKenzie released her sophomore effort, Close Your Eyes, to nearly universal acclaim and spread her reputation beyond Australia's shores. It won the Best Jazz Album ARIA award (Australia's Grammy), and earned her touring slots with Enrico Rava and John Patitucci. That same year she won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied with Joanne Brackeen and earned an Artist’s Diploma in Jazz Performance. Also while at Berklee, she had the opportunity to perform her own work at Boston Symphony Hall, Umbria Jazz's Winter and Summer festivals, Jazz Ahead in Bremen, Germany, and the Riccione and Lucca Donna Jazz Festivals in Italy.
Upon graduating from Berklee, she remained in the United States. Her third album, We Could Be Lovers, was produced by Brian Bacchus and issued in Australia in late 2014. Given its universally positive critical reception and her growing profile on North American stages, the album was picked up by Impulse! Records for international distribution and re-released on September 25, 2015. ~ Thom Jurek