[Cover photo credit to Lauren Desberg]
Vocal team-up säje have shared a Hoda Ramy-animated music video for their rendition of “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” featuring Jacob Collier. Last week, the song was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals category.
The track comes from their self-titled, self-funded, self-Produced and self-released debut full-length album. säje is made up of Los Angeles-based Sara Gazarek and Erin Bentlage and Seattle-based Johnaye Kendrick and Amanda Taylor.
The recent Grammy nomination is the second so far for säje. Their debut single “Desert Song” was nominated for a Grammy in 2020. säje’s debut album features originals, reimagined Jazz standards, and inventive interpretations of contemporary tunes such as Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It.”
In addition to Collier, guests on the album include vocalist Michael Mayo, pianist Dawn Clement, drummer Christian Euman, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, tenor saxophonist Daniel Rotem, and bassist Ben Williams.
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 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.
Of the members, 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 vocal ensembles, including Groove for Thought, The Manhattan Transfer, Chanticleer and Kings Return. Johnaye Kendrick has a repertoire of originals and standards, Jazz tunes and contemporary Pop songs, having released two albums on her record label johnygirl. Sara Gazarek is a two-time Grammy nominee for her solo albums, and is also a Jazz vocalist.