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Jazz Spotlight: Sarah Marie Young

With the eclectic nature of Chicago’s music scene, filled with the blues, jazz, gospel, and R & B, it is a real joy to check out the vocal stylings of Sarah Marie Young.  An alumni of Columbia College’s heralded vocal jazz program, Young has been impressing Chicago audiences since 2004.

One aspect of Young’s singing that really amazes is her ability to sing jazz, R & B, as well as her own hip originals.  As a jazz singer, Young sings standards with intense swing and dazzling virtuosity.  Like Ella, Sarah (the other one), and Carmen she matches her consummate musicianship with a sassy personality and sparkling showmanship. She has performed at venues such as Andy’s, the Jazz Showcase, Mayne Stage, and the Skokie Theatre as well as with numerous groups including the Tim Fitzgerald Quartet, the political jazz band Chicago Yestet, and progressive acid jazz group Quazi Exotix.

Sarah’s stellar jazz abilities should be quite enough except that she is also a phenomenal R & B singer.  At one of her many shows at the M Lounge, one can enjoy her remarkable covers of Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, and Lauren Hill to name a few.  Such shows typically feature her hip group arrangements or her duets with the excellent singer, Saalik Ziyad (see video below).  Not only that, but she has an appallingly good R & B sway.  In fact, I think about jazz drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson’s “Feel the Sway” campaign as part of his popular Arts and Crafts band.  Matt would get an entire audience to sway with this tune (his music is kind of hypnotic like that).  If Matt hosted a national musical swaying contest, I am positive that Sarah would be a finalist, if not the winner.

Speaking of contests and winners, Young was recently a semi-finalist in the 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  She was also the First Prize winner among international competitors at the 2011 Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition. As a winner in that competition, she is currently planning a trip to Switzerland to record her first album.