Jazz Musician Graces Stage of Poplar Knight Spot
BY KATHERINE SMITH
Special to The Pilot
Kate McGarry's voice is savory and -telescopic - a small, researched and intensely personalized piece of jazz -history.
Simplistically described as a "jazz musician," listeners do not expect her voice to take on the heavy strength of the Weepies or the transcendent -soprano of Brooke Fraser.
She sings an empowering cover of Tony Bennett's chauvinistic song "Girl Talk" and a hauntingly insistent cover of The Cars' "Just What I Needed."
Praised by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, she is said to have "redefined" what it means to be a jazz artist. But since a toddler, singing has come naturally to McGarry. She fell specifically for jazz because of its "freedom," she says. "It has form, but it has so much space."
McGarry will perform at the Rooster's Wife's Poplar Knight Spot in Aberdeen on Sunday, March 10. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available at the door or online at theroosterswife.org.
At the show, McGarry will perform with her husband, co-arranger, producer and guitarist Keith Ganz.
The two will perform songs from her five Palmetto records, as well as songs from their unreleased album, "Genevieve and Ferdinand." The album title comes from McGarry's middle name and Ganz's bull-like personality. After nine years of musical and personal chemistry, the album "combined the best of our -different worlds," McGarry says.
Her first live album, recording was done at Sound Pure in the couple's town of Durham, and has yet to be signed under a label.
McGarry's original "Ten Little Indians" is a wordsmith's telling of her parents' lives and passings. "Beneath A Crozet Trestle Bridge" is Ganz's poem about captivation with "all the -beauty I could never never touch."
The evergreen genre is siphoned through McGarry's smoldering voice. Her six albums evidence a near--spiritual research into the lives and aims of artists.
Her 2008 album "If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything" was nominated for a Grammy. In her most recent album, 2012's "Girl Talk," she -channels iconic females like Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Irene Kral to give alternative, fearless insight of unquestioned classics.
Her cover of the Gershwins' "The Man I Love," becomes a song about self--sacrifice and about a single woman being less than whole.
"We re-set the tune, removing some of the chords, changing some," she says on her website. "We slowed it down, made it feel starker. And instead of concentrating on all this man's wonderful qualities, we focused on the words `I'm waiting.'"
Her cover of "We Kiss in a Shadow" from "The King and I" becomes a somber song of social enslavement. McGarry -correlates it to the New Jersey student Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in 2010 after experiencing cruel cyberbullying for being gay. With McGarry's intention, the lyrics "We speak in a whisper, afraid to be heard; when people are near, we speak not a word" are culturally redefined.
McGarry was raised in Hyannis, Mass., as one of 10 children in a musical family that sang together and conducted living room shows.
"From the time I was two or three, I was always singing and always loved to sing," McGarry says. "It's basically the only thing I ever wanted to do."
Amidst the instability of high school, combined with the chaos of a big family living in a little house, "I started to hear jazz music and really turned to it as a sort of safe place to bring all of these crazy things," McGarry says.
She heard the scatting and the improv of the greats - Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis and Al Jarreau - and says "It was like, wow, this music has so much space for all kinds of different emotions."
McGarry earned her degree in Afro-American music and jazz from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. There, she began developing her organic vocal style through early training in jazz performance with saxophonist Archie Shepp.
Graduation only heightened McGarry's insatiable curiosity for the bones of the genre. She was invited to play with Clark Terry and Hank Jones at the Monterey Jazz Festival and recorded vocals for films and commercials in Hollywood.
After moving to New York in 2003, McGarry composed her sophomore independent album "Show Me," produced by Steven Santoro. Her uncanny sound attracted Palmetto Records, who have produced other artists such as jazz pianists Bill Mays and Fred Hersch. McGarry signed with them and became the first vocalist on the label's roster.
Since then, she has taught music courses, studied at a meditation ashram and toured the globe - from her home state to a recent month-long tour of China and Mongolia.
"One of the main impetuses in my -family was that it [music] was always something that made everyone feel close - a community, like we're all in this together," she says. "Some part of me is always looking for that same experience in whatever culture I'm with."
Finding that musical family and making music that "has a positive effect" and "helps you feel something" during sadness is her paramount hope.
She has a respectful courtship with her music.
"I sort of keep finding it out as I do it," she says. "It keeps revealing itself to me."
McGarry also says that she respects and appreciates when "someone creates a nice place for artists to make music," so she is anticipating the evening at the Rooster's Wife.
For more information, visit -katemcgarry.com.
Katherine Smith, a former Pilot intern, is a student at Appalachian State University.
More like this story