Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

77

Kate McGarry: Beauty and the Bus

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

Sign in to view read count
They all work quite seriously at these goals, which transcend the type of music they happen to be playing. This helps account for the stylistic diversity of their sets, which mix up jazz, folk, rock, pop, and Brazilian; the band is just as likely to cover Björk and Toninho Horta as Cole Porter and McGarry's own, well-crafted tunes.



One of the highest goals in music is to "tell your story" (a favorite maxim of legendary vocalist Mark Murphy). Naturally, lyrics make this easier, but it's also possible to narrate without words. Kindly note: this is not that Kardashian/Facebook brand of sharing where sincerity is as extinct as the dodo, and every shallow experience is hoarded and hyped. There are no tricks or manipulations in McGarry's music: it's a gimmick-free zone.

For example, it's rare to find an artist who can write a successful song about her parents' "beautiful" deaths that was honest and natural rather than maudlin, preachy, or Hallmark-predictable (McGarry lost both of them recently). The only other name that springs to mind is Fred Hersch, who built an entire show around his nearly fatal coma that managed to be both riveting and funny.

It's no coincidence that the two of them are fast friends.

Moreover, the song was tuneful and swinging enough to fit nicely into a set of jazz, and its lyrics were absorbing. In between references to sweet chariots carrying people home, McGarry describes the central role of music in her family of ten siblings, alluding to its bonding and healing impact without having to hit you over the head with it. "Ten Little Indians" is not on this CD, but perhaps will make the next. Meanwhile, it blew everyone away with its ability to transmute pain into art.


Enough Philosophy—What About the Music?

One distinctive trademark of McGarry's band is its tendency to "play the spaces"—instead of being afraid of silence and filling every beat, everyone is constantly making thoughtful and deliberate choices. In fact, these "empty" interludes engage the listeners even further; by leaving room for reaction and their own interpretations; the music draws them deeper into the song.

During my years of knowing this group, I've never seen McGarry or her compadres duplicate a performance. They say you can never step in the same river twice, and this group is known for applying that idea to music. Several of my favorites from Girl Talk appeared that night in gleaming new dimensions.

Chief among them was George Gershwin's "The Man I Love." On both CD and stage, it gets a dreamy soundwash that highlights the mystery and wistfulness of its lyrics. But where so many singers make a dirge out of the song's disappointment, McGarry keeps her power; at the end, she even hints at impatience by escalating the word "waiting" in the direction of demand. When recording the tune, its loneliness is subliminally expressed with a slight reverb on the last two "waiting"s, so that the word seems to echo in an empty room.

It happens that my fiancé, bassist Norm Lotz, was able to catch McGarry's performance in San Francisco two days after New York's. Apparently the bicoastal audiences had the same reaction: the California girls followed every syllable, he said, "as if the song spoke to their deepest yearnings." This song has always been a lady killer, but this is the only arrangement that ever gave me chills; part of its effect is that it's condensed to just one chorus, which gives the message an even greater wallop.

Another highlight of Girl Talk is the duo between McGarry and Kurt Elling on the beautiful "O Cantador" (aka "Like a Lover"). Arranged by McGarry with some superb, unexpected harmonies, this track demonstrates how perfectly two voices can complement one another. McGarry's sweet softness and Elling's dry, angular sound create a musical yin and yang, while being able to witness their sensuous and joyful interaction took the experience right over the top.

It's Not All Serious

Any description of the Kate McGarry group would be incomplete without mentioning its playfulness and humor. Although it sounds like McGarry recorded the archaic, sexist lyrics of "Girl Talk" with her tongue firmly in cheek, onstage she vamps it up into a riotous spoof. As a bonus, there was one of those blazing scat solos that she tends to fire off as casually as other people order a Whopper at a drive-up window. "Charade" had its satirical moments as well, evoking the band's treatment of "Whatever Lola Wants" on Mercy Streets (Palmetto, 2006). Meanwhile, there are always frequent grins flashing around the bandstand as each player appreciates and supports the others.

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

My Funny Valentine

My Funny Valentine

Kate McGarry
The Subject Tonight Is Love

Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Nite & Disk
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
The Subject Tonight Is Love

The Subject Tonight...

Binxtown Records
2018

buy
Genevieve & Ferdinand

Genevieve & Ferdinand

Sunnyside Records
2014

buy
Genevieve & Ferdinand - Live

Genevieve & Ferdinand...

Sunnyside Records
2014

buy
Girl Talk

Girl Talk

Palmetto Records
2012

buy
Less is More... Nothing is Everything

Less is More......

Palmetto Records
2008

buy
The Target

The Target

Palmetto Records
2007

buy

Related Articles

Nite & Disk
Eliane Elias: Made in Brazil - Swung at Birdland
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
April 30, 2015
Nite & Disk
Kate McGarry: Beauty and the Bus
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
May 5, 2012
Nite & Disk
Eliane Elias: Something [Historic] for You at Dizzy's
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
January 31, 2008
Nite & Disk
McCoy Tyner: Shadows and Pulse at the Blue Note
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
December 16, 2004
Nite & Disk
Thunder in the Hall: Michel Camilo at Lincoln Center
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
October 4, 2004
Nite & Disk
The Frank and Joe Show: The Hoot Factor at Sweet Rhythm
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
May 1, 2004
Nite & Disk
"Somewhere" (at the Vanguard) with Bill Charlap & the Washingtons
By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
April 11, 2004