Sanjaya Malakar Stuns with Jazz Set at Jamming for June - Gilda’s Club Seattle Benefit

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Max Wang Photography

Sanjaya Malakar, fronting a jazz group at Seattle's Musicquarium Lounge.

Proof that hard work and dedication pay off, the vocalist once known for sporting a “ponyhawk” hairdo on American Idol captivated an enthusiastic Seattle audience at the Triple Door’s Musicquarium Lounge on August 24. The occasion was Jamming for June, a Gilda’s Club Seattle fundraising benefit in memory of departed Gilda’s member June Draeger-Otis. Any expectation of facile pop performances from the former Idol finalist were quashed when the backing quartet launched into a loose, funky rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” For the next 80 minutes, Malakar displayed the skill he’s developed during his time in New York City, comfortable interacting with the assembled jazz musicians.

Malakar led the band through one of his signature Idol tunes, “Besame Mucho,” which featured seductive, supportive sax licks. “Night and Day” was delivered as a sexy, slow jam, with drummer Christopher Patin and bassist Trevor Pelletier locking into a deep groove. Well-worn Great American Songbook standards like “Take the A Train” and “Georgia On My Mind” were infused with fresh energy. A slinky take on “Fever” was stretched to epic length, with tasty solos by pianist Charles Hiestand and the rest of the group. Above it all, Malakar’s soulful vocals soared confidently. We interviewed him recently here on TMR and if this performance was any indication of his upcoming recording projects, there’s some very good music in store for those willing to listen.

Gilda (3) (147x220).jpgAlso joining the cause to support the non-profit cancer support community were jazz vocalist Lisa Fox (pictured left) and singer-songwriter Kristin Allen-Zito (formerly of the electro punk band The Trucks; pictured right-below). Fox, whose recent album Watch What Happens boasted support by some of Seattle’s premiere jazz players, stood out with a deeply felt reading of “My Funny Valentine.” Allen-Zito played original material from her latest release The Atlas, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. A crowd sing-along during her song “Utah” proved to be a highlight. Her set provided some stylistic variety from the mostly jazz-oriented program.

Gilda (4) (147x220).jpgThe reason behind Jamming for June was never given short shrift, with Malakar sharing a very personal inspiration for supporting Gilda’s Club. The Seattle branch, which opened its doors in 2002, provides support services for those dealing with cancer (and their families), educational opportunities, healthy lifestyle promotion, social connections, and a “Resources and Referral” program. All member services are provided free of charge, which is why community support is so vital. For more information about Gilda’s Club Seattle, including how to donate, visit their official website.

Photos: Max Wang Photography

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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