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 was born in Melbourne, Australia and began playing piano at the age of nine. Throughout her high-school years Sarah was a member […]
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 was born in Melbourne, Australia and began playing piano at the age of nine. Throughout her high-school years Sarah was a member of the school band and learned trumpet as well as piano. From there she went on to attended university at Perth's 'West Australian Academy of Performing Arts' (WAAPA), the same institution that gave rise to Hugh Jackman, Marcus Graham, and Lisa McCune. Sarah graduated with a Bachelor of Jazz degree, won the Jack Bendat Scholarship, the Hawaiian Award for "Most Outstanding Jazz Graduate:' She also won a spot as a backing vocalist on Michael Buble's 'Call Me Irresponsible' tour.
After relocating back to Melbourne, she studied with Australian Jazz superstar 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 20 I I . 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 universal acclaim and spread her reputation beyond Australia's shores. It won the 'Best Jazz Album 'ARIA' award' (Australia's equivalent to the Grammy), and earned her support slots on the tours of Enrico Rava and John Patitucci. That same year she won a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston (MA) where she studied with Joanne Brackeen and earned an Artist's Diploma in Jazz Performance. While at Berklee College of Music she had the opportunity to perform her own work at Boston Symphony Hall, Umbria Jazz's Winter and Summer festivals (Italy), Jazz Ahead in Bremen (Germany), and the Riccione and Lucca Donna Jazz Festivals in Italy. Upon graduating from Berklee College of Music, Sarah remained in the United States. Her third album, 'We Could Be Lovers', was produced by Brian Bacchus and released in Australia in late 2014. Given its positive critical reception and her growing profile on North American stages, the album was picked up by Universal Music's imprint 'Impulse!' for worldwide distribution and released on August 15, 2015 in the rest of the world. In early 2016 Universal Music Publishing in France signed her as composer with an exclusive 5 year contract and she became member of the French royalty collection system SACEM and relocated to Paris. In January 2017 Impulse! released McKenzie's follow up album 'Paris in the Rain', which she toured over the next two years around the world performing at hundreds of festivals, e.g. in Montreux, Montreal, Monterrey, Stuttgart, Vienne, Marciac, but also going to places as distant as Japan, Russia, China, Taiwan and Brazil.
In 2018 the Diablo Regional Arts Association in Walnut Creek (CA) commissioned McKenzie to compose and perform a full concert length concert program titled 'San Francisco - Paris of the West' which tells the story of the Verdier family and their influence on San Francisco over the centuries. Sarah was able to engage the very best musicians of the US Jazz scene to accompany her on this project, which consequently was recorded at Los Angeles' famous Capitol Recording Studios.
By then Sarah had relocated to London and in March of that year she released her next album 'Secrets of My Heart' on the Normandy Lane Music label. Once again she toured the world until the corona virus pandemic outbreak stopped all touring in March 2020. Sarah was lucky that the DRAA in Walnut Creek (CA) gave her another commission entitled 'Music Connects Our World' a video extravaganza of 60 minutes length, filmed remotely, in which she collaborates with other artist from around the world and performs songs together with them. Those videos have been viewed by over 7 million people worldwide.