June 23, 2023: Today, GRAMMY®-nominated group säje released their new single “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” featuring Jacob Collier. The new rendition of the timeless jazz standard will be released on säje’s upcoming debut album, out August 25th. Featuring Los Angeles-based Sara Gazarek and Erin Bentlage and Seattle-situated Johnaye Kendrick and Amanda Taylor, the group first generated buzz in 2020 when their debut single “Desert Song” was unexpectedly nominated for a GRAMMY®.
“It was an absolute thrill to hear Jacob improvise this tender and heart-forward rendition of an iconic jazz standard in the recording studio, and to then to be given the space to compose and arrange, layer and paint around him, after the fact,” shares Sara Gazarek. Erin Bentlage continues, “I realized quite soon into the session that Jacob was very deliberately holding space for us in everything he was doing. Specific breaths, harmonic pivots around single long notes, leaving room for us to play in a moment he could have easily taken — in take after take of unendingly generous creativity.”
When a jazz ensemble earns a GRAMMY Award® nomination with its very first song, something unusual is in the works. Magic is a word that comes up often when the women of säje talk about the group’s founding and evolution, and the story of their first single, “Desert Song,” has attained near legendary status. Early in the group’s journey, the women took a retreat in Palm Springs where they formed closer bonds and experienced a creative breakthrough. This creative energy resurfaced when they had the opportunity to perform at the Jazz Education Network Conference in New Orleans, which then led the women to quickly create an entire set of new material, much of which makes up the debut album.
Encompassing finely wrought originals, reimagined jazz standards and inventive interpretations of contemporary tunes by the likes of YEBBA, The Bad Plus, Michael Jackson, and more, säje’s debut exists in a space without sonic or genre boundaries, coaxing the vocal ensemble into new sonic territory. In addition to Jacob Collier, guests on the album include vocalist Michael Mayo, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, drummer and NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington, tenor saxophonist Daniel Rotem, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Christian Euman, and pianist Dawn Clement.
When you look at the accomplishments of the women in säje, their individual virtuosity and singular chemistry starts to make sense. Erin Bentlage has been featured on albums by Jacob Collier (Djesse Vol. 3), Kiefer (When There’s Love Around), Kate McGarry (What To Wear In The Dark), and Amber Navran (their collaboration Golden Light). Amanda Taylor is a Grammy-nominated arranger known for her work with leading vocal ensembles, including Groove for Thought, The Manhattan Transfer, Chanticleer, and Kings Return. Johnaye Kendrick has honed a deep repertoire of originals and inventively arranged standards, jazz tunes and contemporary pop songs, having released two albums on her record label johnygirl, 2014’s Here, and 2018’s acclaimed Flying. Sara Gazarek is a two-time GRAMMY® nominee for her solo albums, and is widely considered one of her generation’s definitive jazz vocalists.
With multiple award nominations and critical acclaim this early in their artistic journey, säje is poised to shine on the international stage with their debut album, paving the way for other singers to explore new sonic and emotional territories.
1. Desert Song
2. (You Are) The Oracle (feat. Michael Mayo)
3. Never You Mind (feat. Ambrose Akinmusire)
4. In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning (feat. Jacob Collier)
7. I Can’t Help It
8. As This Moment Slips Away (feat. Terri Lyne Carrington & Daniel Rotem)
10. Solid Ground/Blackbird