Described as "one of the exciting, new, young breed of traditional jazz players and the hottest tenor saxophonist on the Jazz scene today," Sarah's creed has always been to "play it Hot and Dirty."
Sarah started playing clarinet at the age of 8 and tenor sax at 15, later taking up the baritone and soprano saxophones and bass clarinet. She started playing on the British traditional jazz scene at 18; was the youngest visitor to play in Preservation Hall, New Orleans at 19; and formed the first of her own bands at 20. In 1989, Sarah Spencer's Rue Conti Jazz Band was formed with the aim of playing New Orleans music "from Piron to Professor Longhair" and became one of Britain's most popular bands. They were the first to play classic New Orleans dirges and more modern, funky brass band numbers in a small band format of 6 musicians (instead of the traditional 10 or more).
Shortly after GHB Records of New Orleans, LA purchased the U.S. rights to the Rue Conti's compact disc, "Laissez Les Bons Temps Roulez" (recorded for Lake Records and later released on GHB Records in 1998), Sarah moved to America. Since then, she has made numerous guest appearances around the world, recorded several compact discs, and appeared at festivals around the world, including playing at the Purcell Room of the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. On one tour, she co-led an all-star band from the U.S. and Great Britain — including George Probert, Clint Baker and 'Tuba Fats' Lacen — which thrilled audiences at every concert and the high points of which were the saxophone 'battles' between Sarah and George.
The 1996 Jazzology Poll rated her in the following categories:
Favorite New Jazz Artist — 2nd
Favorite Tenor Saxophonist — 5th
Best Foreign Artist — 5th
Best All-Round Jazz Band — 6th
Sarah has played with bands all over the world. Although her main love is the revival style of New Orleans jazz, she is equally competant and comfortable playing any style of traditional jazz (e.g. Dixieland, West Coast, New Orleans and small band swing).
George H. Buck, Jr. says,
"Sarah plays tenor sax in the true New Orleans style of that instrument.... It is nice to hear a lady who has assimilated so much of the New Orleans feeling and tradition."
And, on hearing Sarah's vocal cd, "Every Married Woman's Got A Back Door Man", George, again, honored Sarah with the following comment:
"You have now become a fine blues singer in the classic tradition of the blues. Long ago, New Orleans jazz fans have considered you to be one of the finest tenor saxophonists in the New Orleans tradition and now you have added to your talented career the classic blues... truly a double threat, combining your singing talents with your already established and highly respected artistry on tenor sax."
In a review of a recent gig that Sarah played with Roy Rubenstein's Chicago Hot Six, JazFax Magazine said: "Remarkable reedwoman."
After the Chicago Hot Six show here last fall, Jazfax Magazine reviewed Spencer’s performance:
"No wonder the remarkable reedwoman remains in demand. This is a musician who clearly feels the music! When she’s not blowing, she’s moving her lips to lyrics real or imagined. She hums out loud. She bounces in her seat. She cheers the work of her bandmates. She claps in rhythm.
And her singing is downright otherworldly as she opens her mouth wide and lets loose with head tones that send the words sailing into the ether. She barely needs amplification."