Meet Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz
Leaves of Grass with Fred Hersch and Kurt Elling
Kate: I met Fred a couple of years ago, and he asked me to be on the benefit record (Classical Action) with ten different vocalists on it. He and I did "Nobody Else But Me." We did some gigs together and eventually he asked me to sing with his ensemble on Leaves of Grass, which was originally performed with Norma Winstone who's a wonderful singer and writer but lives in London. This year we did a recording and a tour and played Carnegie Hall. Kurt set something up at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago for this coming December. I think there will be more in 2006. Being on the larger stages and connecting with a larger audience has had a strengthening effect on me. Every time we finish a performance I'm in a state of Whitman's vision of humanity and love of nature. I hope we continue to do that a long time.
Kate: I learned so much from him, his manner, how generous he is, his way of being with people when he sings. He was very supportive. We have a nice sound together, I loved singing with him.
Kate: He's very creative, and is usually working on a number of different projects at once. He's also generous and loves to give a chance to people he sees something in, but he doesn't act like he's doing you any favor. He likes to give his two cents on what he hears, and I enjoy that. He's been like a big brother to me.
Electric guitar to acoustic
Keith: In '98 I moved up to New York and started playing jazz gigs. I don't think I ever would have thought my North Carolina background had influenced me until I was in New York a while. I started to realize how different my sensibilities were than a lot of the people around me whose music sounded hectic to me. I never had an acoustic guitar until after I was in New York. I joined a band that had kind of a world music sound, and they really wanted an acoustic guitarist. For a while I was resisting because it's hard to amplify an acoustic guitar with a band. I got one and started down the road of finding an acoustic guitar sound that would work in a live situation. That took a couple of years and a lot of experiments with different guitars and equipment. When I finally found that sound I couldn't go back to electric. For me it's prettier and more direct. I've hardly played any electric guitar since then.
I've always loved Pat Metheny's acoustic guitar sound. His albums usually have one song where he plays acoustic, and I used to wonder why he didn't do a whole album. I was looking for a way to get that kind of lush sound in a live setting. I love the folky finger-style players like James Taylor, and I started figuring some of that out. A singer/songwriter Paul Curreri from Virginia does this amazing finger-style acoustic guitar stuff that I've tried to learn. Those skills have really helped in the duos with Kate because I can create a lot of different rhythmic feels I couldn't do when I was just a jazz player. It's funny because you think of jazz technically as the most advanced thing. I thought of myself that way before I heard Paul doing a solo show and thankfully he relieved me of that notion. After that I just dove into orchestrating things on solo guitar.
Sean Smith (bassist)
Keith: He was the first person I met in New York who I really connected with musically. He asked me to replace Bill Charlap in his quartet when Bill started getting too busy. Playing with Sean's quartet is always intense, always at a really high levelthe players, their intentions, his compositions. Sean introduced me and Kate. The first time Kate and I played together we were in the corner of this bar with nobody listening, having an amazing time. I spent the next year wondering why she didn't call me.
Move to New York
Kate: I left LA in '96 because I felt like I had reached a plateau musically. I went to study in an ashram for 2½ years. During that time I was singing sacred Indian music and chanting but not performing much. After a while I realized I needed to perform. I moved to New York, and right away I knew I was in the right placethere was so much music. I met Steve Cardenas right away, then Luciana Souza. I liked her writing, what she was doing. I worked with her on Brazilian music, Portuguese pronunciation. We did some shows together and really liked working together.