Singer Kate McGarry grew up in Hyannis, Mass., as one of 10 children in a musical family that spent many nights singing together.
At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she earned a degree in African-American music and jazz; she began developing her organic vocal style through early training in jazz performance with iconic saxophonist Archie Shepp, and her experiences studying at a meditation ashram and exploring Celtic, Brazilian and Indian music also contributed to her widescreen vision as a vocalist and composer. After years in Los Angeles, McGarry moved to New York in the late ‘90s; her independently produced sophomore album, Show Me, was picked up by Palmetto Records, making her the first vocalist on the label’s roster. Jazziz magazine declared about McGarry upon that first Palmetto release, “With this near-flawless album, she has arrived.”
In 2005, McGarry’s Mercy Streets album—which ranged characteristically from the Peter Gabriel title track to songs by Björk, Joni Mitchell and Irving Berlin—was called “one of the most important vocal albums of the year” by All About Jazz. Featuring originals alongside tunes by Sting and Bill Evans/Miles Davis, her album The Target was named one of the best jazz vocal albums of 2007 by Downbeat. The Downbeat reviewer called the recording “a milestone of maturity,” adding: “No matter how many liberties she takes with meter and interpretation, she exercises a fidelity to the meaning of the song. McGarry has the pure untrammeled voice of an ingénue who finds wonder in the simplest of things.” Her 2008 album, If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything, was nominated for a Grammy Award, with The Wall Street Journal calling it “an exceptionally appealing blend of folk and jazz” for its mix of originals, standards, Brazilian tunes and songs by the likes of Bob Dylan. National Public Radio said: “Kate McGarry is called a jazz vocalist, but she's hard to pin down. She draws on the music of her youth to inspire her—from the Irish tunes of her family's roots to musical theater to pop songs.”
McGarry has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland to the Berlin Jazz Fest, San Sebastian Jazz Fest and Jazz Baltica. The singer has recorded and toured with such jazz luminaries as Hank Jones, Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling and Maria Schneider. And she has toured Eastern Europe, South America and recently returned from a month long tour of China and Mongolia on behalf of the U.S.