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Kate McGarry: Girl Talk

Mark Corroto By

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Someone should tell vocalists today—at least the ones we see on those TV talent hunts—that singing doesn't have to be some exercise in screaming self-annihilation, that beauty and style is more about composure and command. You could tell them, or you can hip them to Girl Talk, by Kate McGarry.

McGarry, a jazz vocalist, has covered various pop and folk songs by the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting, Björk and Joni Mitchell on prior recordings. Her style defies categorization. Or, perhaps she has been saying that jazz has become 21st century folk music.

Like her previous disc, If Less Is More... Nothing is Everything (Palmetto, 2008), she employs a first-rate jazz band that includes her guitarist/husband Keith Ganz, keyboardist Gary Versace, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Clarence Penn. The quartet, along with Matt Balitsaris of Palmetto Records, ensures that the sound is top rate.

On Girl Talk she forgoes pop music for a more traditional, popular jazz sound. Like her role models Betty Carter, Sheila Jordan and Carmen McRae, you can call it jazz or pop, to them it's just singing. Like her vocal mentors, she delivers with an assured sprezzatura—that effortless style that sounds innate but can only be delivered after intense study and practice.

The title track, a bit of patronizing misogyny, gets turned on its sarcastic head, much in the manner that fellow singer Tony Bennett covered the song in 1966. McGarry's bluesy, loping delivery is balanced by the throwback sounds of Versace's organ and Ganz's guitar. The guitarist is featured throughout, and plays a duet with McGarry on the ballad "Looking Back," doubling on acoustic and electric guitars.

What's to love here is the casual nature of this remarkable ensemble. McGarry makes the complex seem unpretentious. She can move between speaking and singing through a song without a perceptible difference between the two, as she does on "I Just Found Out About Love." Maybe that's why her voice fits hand-in-hand with singer/orator Kurt Elling on the Brazilian "O Contador." She endears herself with the flirty track "I Know That You Know," a scat-filled "It's a Wonderful World," and the bachelor (or bachelorette) pad tango, "Charade."

Kate McGarry certainly has that "thing" that Duke Ellington wrote a song about, and her music does mean a thing.

Track Listing: We Kiss in a Shadow; Girl Talk; I Just Found Out About Love; The Man I Love; O Cantador; This Heart of Mine; I Know That You Know; Looking Back; Charade; It’s a Wonderful World.

Personnel: Kate McGarry: vocal; Keith Ganz: guitars; Gary Versace: piano, organ; Reuban Rogers: bass; Clarence Penn: drums, percussion; Kurt Elling: vocal (5).

Title: Girl Talk | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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