This is far from an ordinary collection of jazz-styled love songs. Vocalist Kate McGarry, guitarist Keith Ganz and pianist Gary Versace have put together a program that covers such varied aspects of love as romantic love, love for family, love for self, and love for mankind. They do this through mixing a lot of rock, folk and blues motifs with jazz in intimate arrangements that really put across the powerful emotions concerned in their songs.
They sprinkle a few venerable standards throughout the program but they are all done in imaginative ways. "Gone With The Wind" and "Indian Summer" are performed in a loose and playful improvisational style, with McGarry singing wispily over Versace's prickly piano chords and Ganz's electric bass. On "Secret Love" and "My Funny Valentine" her soft, wide-eyed, vocalizing make the songs sound like hushed confessions which are further enhanced by their accompaniment. "Secret" spotlights guitar sound that moves from folk chording to a bossa nova groove, while on"My Funny Valentine" Versace's electric piano glows and Ganz's guitar has the thick. molten sound of Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro. These include "Losing Strategy #4," a carefully sung piece about the emptiness of revenge, with piano and accordion simmering under the vocal; and "Climb Down," an ominous swampy blues where McGarry alternately purrs and wails about reconnecting with her ancestors over thick slide guitar and chilling organ. Another highlight is "Fair Weather," a lovely ballad about brotherhood co-written by Benny Golson and Kenny Dorham, with spare piano and bass guitar solos alongside featherlight singing. Perhaps the most beautiful single moment is "She Always Will"/The River," where McGarry sings with high, breathy determination over a pulsing piano accompaniment before all three musicians converge on an undulating rhythm, McGarry singing wordlessly as Ganz and Versace intertwine for a gorgeous, flowing sound.
Kate McGarry's voice conveys an innocence and intimacy that is a perfect match for the rich music and profound words present in this project. Ganz and Versace, for their part, contribute a delicacy and fluidity that make this music linger in your head. This is a deceptively powerful meditation on all meanings of love and an early pick for one of the best albums of 2018.
Track Listing: Prologue: The Subject Tonight Is Love; Secret Love; Climb Down/Whiskey You're the Devil; Gone with the Wind; Fair Weather; Playing Palhaço; Losing Strategy #4; My Funny Valentine; Mr. Sparkle/What a Difference a Day Makes; She Always Will/The River; Indian Summer; Epilogue: All You Need Is Love.
Personnel: Kate McGarry: vocals, piano (7); Keith Ganz: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic bass guitar; Gary Versace: piano, keyboard, organ, accordion; Obed Calvaire: drums (3); Ron Miles: trumpet (12).
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