This recording Genevieve and Ferdinand is one of the most intimate works of art that has ever been put on disc in a long, long time. It is not simply that there are only two protagonists: the lovely and most charming Kate McGarry, accompanied by her husband and guitarist, Keith Ganz. It has much more to do with the ravishingly beautiful voice of Ms. McGarry and the repertoire that she has chosen—something that suits her so perfectly, and which she sings pitch perfect in her own inimitable manner—in a voice laid bare, the only thing left to do is weep; sometimes for joy and at other times for the elemental sadness that her songs bring. Ms. McGarry’s voice and the manner in which she manipulates it gives her vocalastics an almost nude effect. So much emotion is put through the music that a myriad feelings of things so private that the listener feels as if he or she were an interloper who stumbled upon a secret tryst between the artist and her innermost soul. And when Ms. McGarry sings in such a manner its no holds barred. It feels as if she is to music what Sylvia Plath is to poetry, although Ms. McGarry is far from a fatalist, who might sit on a stone bench.
There is something else that feels so beautiful about this recording and that is the manner in which the voice and the guitar complement each other. It appears that something secret is passing between Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz. While this is constant, something changes every now and then and that might be brought upon by the fact that the two are husband and wife. Here however, it feels as if Ms. McGarry and Mr. Ganz are paramours. As the music rolls off her tongue almost too deliciously there is a sense that a sly look has been exchanged between the two; or a quick and soft touch between guitarist and vocalist. Ms. McGarry sometimes sounds all too bashful; she can almost be seen to blush and in that hot flash she utters words in secret code about love. This is not always a word-filled line; it is a wordless vocal as seen in “Can’t Help Loving That Man”. But something can go dramatically wrong at any time. And then you have a chart like “Pretending to Care”. The pain is almost too much to bear. Fortunately it is all in the make-believe world, because the listener may have come to love this couple so much that nothing should go wrong; absolutely nothing.
As vocal albums go, Genevieve and Ferdinand is truly special. The intimacy and the spare nature of the music comes across as a recording that is made by a solo pianist; and not just any pianist, but someone such as Fred Hersch. Ironically Kate McGarry is also one of the most preferred vocalists for Mr. Hersch. Her outstanding turn in Mr. Hersch’s epic recording, Leaves of Grass. However, Ms. McGarry’s album stands alone as a one of the finest vocal albums recorded in 2013; that is including Rebecca Martin’s superb album Twain. It is hoped that music such as this will get its true reception in a market that does not seem as discerning as it is cracked up to be.
Track List: American Tune; Ten Little Indians; Aquelas Coisas Todas/Third Wind/Aqui O; Can’t Help Loving That Man; Plea for a Good Night’s Rest; Line ’em Up; Mr. Long Gones; Let’s Face The Music And Dance; Pretending To Care; Smile; Beneath A Crozet Trestle Bridge.
Personnel: Kate McGarry: voice; Keith Ganz: guitar; Theo Bleckmann: voice (9); Gian Slater: voice (9)
Label: Sunnyside Records | Release date: January 2014
About Kate McGarry
With 5 critically acclaimed CDs and a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal CD Kate McGarry has become recognized as a jazz artist who brings authenticity and vitality to every song regardless of genre. The Wall St. Journal calls her, “Austere and elegant,” New York Times pronounced her music, “astute and sensitive”. She currently performs in the most venerated jazz clubs and festivals throughout the US and abroad. As an educator she has served on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music and is currently on the faculty of New England Conservatory. Downbeat Magazine has cited McGarry as ‘Rising Star’ vocalist for the past 5 years. She has been interviewed on All Things Considered, Jazz Set w/DeeDee Bridgwater, Piano Jazz w/Marion McPartland.
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 Amherst she earned a degree in Afro-American music and jazz. Kate began developing her organic vocal style through early training in jazz performance with iconic saxophonist Archie Shepp. 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 honing her craft in Los Angeles, McGarry moved to New York where her independently produced (Steven Santoro) debut album, Show Me, was picked up by Palmetto Records, making her the first vocalist on the label’s roster. Jazziz Magazine declared, “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.”
In 2008 Kate and her husband Keith Ganz made a foray into children’s music writing and recording 63 original children’s songs for the Heinle Picture Dictionary for Children, a bestselling international ESL educational product. Kate was then asked to sing the theme song for the hit children’s show, The Wonderpets in a special jazz episode that featured the great Eartha Kitt and Jon Hendricks as The Cool Kat and the Hip Hippo.
Kate is a member of the vocal collective MOSS which features Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan and Luciana Souza. The group’s debut CD, MOSS on Sunnyside Records garnered a rare 4.5 Stars from Down Beat Magazine and an invitation to the Berlin Jazz Festival. The group is working on a follow up recording.
McGarry has performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland to the Newport Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Fest and Jazz Baltica. The singer has recorded and toured with such jazz luminaries as Hank Jones, Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck and Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown. Kate has represented the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center as a jazz ambassador for 3 years running in the American Music Abroad program and recently returned from a month long tour of China and Mongolia.
McGarry’s 5th CD for Palmetto Records Girl Talk was released in the spring of 2012. A tribute to her favorite visionary jazz women vocalists, it garnered 4 stars in Downbeat Magazine and showed up on over 20 Best of 2012 jazz critic’s lists. Her 2013 collaboration with John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Songs I Like A Lot, was lauded as a milestone in contemporary vocal jazz.
Kate currently lives in Durham North Carolina with her husband, guitarist Keith Ganz. The couple are celebrating 10 years of musical and life partnership with their first live duo recording, Genevieve and Ferdinand, which will be released on Sunnyside Records Feb 11, 2014. The tunes, as is typical of their live sets, move freely between jazz, folk, Brazilian and singer songwriter genres. Singular arrangements of classics by Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren and James Taylor sit side by side with Gershwin and Irving Berlin, Toninho Horta and their haunting originals. Special guest vocalists Theo Bleckmann and Gian Slater add their magical sounds on one track.
Kate’s vision for the future includes recording, touring, composing and collaborating as well as teaching and continuing to pass on the many gifts that the jazz music tradition has given to her. As The Nashville Scene noted, “McGarry embraces jazz’s freedom and points the genre toward a future that’s as fresh and thrilling as it’s past.”