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KATE McGARRY, KEITH GANZ, GARY VERSACE

The Subject Tonight Is Love

Binxtown Records [61:11]

 

 

  1. Prologue : The Subject Tonight Is Love

  2. Secret Love

  3. Climb Down/Whiskey You're The Devil

  4. Gone With The Wind

  5. Fair Weather

  6. Playing Palhaço

  7. Losing Strategy # 4

  8. My Funny Valentine

  9. Mr. Sparkle/What A Difference A Day Made

  10. She Always Will/The River

  11. Indian Summer

  12. Epilogue : All You Need Is Love

    Kate McGarry - Vocals, piano (track 7)

    Keith Ganz - Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic bass guitar, drums (track 12)

    Gary Versace - Piano, keyboard, organ, accordion

    Ron Miles - Trumpet (track 12)

    Obed Calvaire - Drums (track 3)

    Singer/songwriter Kate McGarry is a voice new to me, despite the fact that she has been active on the US jazz scene from 1990 onwards and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2009, for If Less Is More … Nothing Is Everything . More recently, Downbeat's Critics Poll for 2016 named her No.1 Rising Star Female Vocalist. An interesting facet of her backstory is that she took time out in 1996 to move to a meditation ashram in the Catskills of up-state New York, remaining there for three years. In 1999, she relocated to New York City. After eleven productive years there, during which time she married guitarist Keith Ganz, the couple are now based in North Carolina, where this album was recorded. McGarry also has experience as a jazz educator and of singing with groups small and large (The Frankfurt Radio Big Band, for example). In addition, she is a member of the vocal collective Moss along with Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge and others. McGarry is joined on this album by her husband Keith Ganz. Ganz is a composer, arranger and producer as well as a guitar maestro and has played with a host of fellow musicians. The remaining member of the group, Gary Versace, is Associate Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media in piano at the Eastman School of Music. This technically accomplished musician has played alongside John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Ralph Alessi, Madeleine Peyroux and Kurt Elling. He also played accordion on Maria Schneider's memorable The Thompson Fields CD.

    This album takes its name from a poem written by the 14th century Sufi mystic, Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz, recited in the opening track in a translation by Daniel Ladinsky. The aim is through the songs to draw out some of the aspects of love. Essentially, then, it is a concept album. The music is a refreshing blend of standards and originals written by McGarry or Ganz plus, in one case, a traditional folk song. Three tracks stand out. My Funny Valentine is always a risky choice for a vocalist because of the numerous fine versions of this Rodgers and Hart favourite that have appeared over the years. McGarry, however, delivers a far from hackneyed treatment. Both poignant and tender in her rendition, she benefits from the finesse of Ganz on electric guitar and Versace's keyboard skills. Mr. Sparkle, a Ganz piece, gets

    a scat introduction from the singer before a segue into What A Difference A Day Makes, forever associated with Dinah Washington, in my mind. McGarry is more up tempo than that earlier version and stands comparison successfully, aided by some zestful playing from Versace. Indian Summer is yet another classic number, stylishly sung, with Versace's improvisational flair to the fore on piano and Ganz, this time, on acoustic bass guitar.

    Elsewhere, McGarry shows her creativity on Climb Down/Whiskey You're The Devil The former piece is McGarry's dialogue with her Irish ancestors which eventually moves into a rousing traditional Irish song. She shows that she is equally proficient at folk performance, at this point. The Benny Golson/Kenny Dorham composition Fair Weather is a well delivered ballad. Versace and Ganz provide thoughtful solos on piano and electric guitar respectively. The latter is typically accomplished, too, on She Always Will/The River. It can be argued that McGarry is perhaps too idiosyncratic at times, as on Gone With The Wind, yet even when her phrasing seems off piste (cf. Secret Love), it is all to good effect. She is also an inventive and highly personal lyricist and composer (see, for instance, Losing Strategy # 4).

    It takes a distinctive talent to stand out from the crowd, in this case of female vocalists, but Kate McGarry shows she has the necessary abilities, in range, inflection and style to pull it off. She has put together a winning combination with her versatile musical companions on this disc. It's a measure of her impact that I'm seeking out her earlier recordings.

    James Poore

 


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