Kate McGarry makes full use of her lilting, pitch- perfect voice on The Target, her third release for Palmetto Records. Like many jazz singers today, McGarry culls some of her musical ideas from non-jazz idioms like pop and folk; in McGarry's case, this hybridization of influences expands rather than limits her individual vocal expression. According to the Palmetto Records website, McGarry bears the distinction of being the first and only vocalist signed to the label. An odd distinctionperhaps the company doesn't like vocalists. McGarry, though, is hard not to like.
At first listen McGarry's performance is simpledeceptively so. Her vocals move effortlessly through the innovative arrangements of jazz classics, revamped standards and pop/folk originals; her phrasing is spare and direct, with only the most necessary of embellishments on her heartfelt melody lines.
McGarry takes the title of the CD from her original tune, "The Target (Miracles Like These). Here the singer/songwriter's multifarious influences are most apparent: What starts as a simple ballad à la Suzanne Vega morphs into a lush composition with folkish background vocals, percussive effects and colorful jazz extensions. The two other originals on the CD, "She Always Will (music by guitarist Steve Cardenas and lyrics by McGarry) and "New Love Song (music and lyrics by McGarry's husband, guitarist Keith Ganz), uphold the promise extended by McGarry's artful treatment of the more well-known tunes on the CD. (It isn't always that originals can hold their own against standards, but McGarry's songwriting team is solid.)
Among the better-known tunes are the reflective ballad "Blue In Green (Miles Davis), featuring solos by McGarry, Reuben Rogers (bass) and Gary Versace (organ) and a fervent rendition of "The Meaning of the Blues (Troup-Worth). McGarry also includes two Broadway standards in her jazz repertoire: Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Heather on the Hill from Brigadoon and Lerner and Loewe's "It Might As Well Be Spring from State Fair. The band's sensitive harmonic interpretation and McGarry's understated delivery of these two chestnuts directs the listener's focus to the lyrics, which are warm and optimistic. Indeed, all of McGarry's CD is that way, without a bit of treacle, and that seems to be the target that McGarry holds in her view.
Track Listing: The Meaning of the Blues; No Wonder; It Might As Well Be Spring; Nobody Else But Me; Blue In Green; The Target (Miracles Like These); The Heather on the Hill; Sister Moon; The Lamp is Low; Do Something; She Always Will; New Love Song.
Personnel: Kate McGarry: voice; Keith Ganz: guitars; Gary Versace: organ, piano, accordion; Reuben Rogers: bass; Greg Hutchinson: drums; Donny McCaslin: tenor sax (6, 9, 10); Theo Blackman: voice loops and effects (6).