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Kate McGarry – Girl Talk

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Kate McGarry has that kind of voice which has a whispering tremolo at the end of some of the lines she sings that makes it so seductive that the eyes shut and breathing virtually stops, and the only thought that occupies the mind is one that involves the wrapping of arms around bodies.

On Girl Talk McGarry is in fine voice, practicing vocalastics of such daring do and such overwhelming emotion that much of the time is spent gasping in wonder at how a singer of relatively limited vocal range might create such a stir in the heart and mind of the listener. McGarry has exquisite control over her breath; can make it thin and dry and moist and thick thereby controlling the extent of emotion she wishes to impart into the tone of words and phrases; lines and verses. This should be the essential part of a vocalist’s armoury, but it is also essential to know when and how to employ each weapon. Moreover there is also that small matter of interweaving the voice into the expectant sound of each of the instruments that accompany the vocalist. Of this too, McGarry is in complete command and she often slips in a sigh or merely expels her breath before, in the middle or at the end of a line, almost taking the instrumentalist and certainly the listener by surprise.

It is this sound of surprise that completely dominates the George and Ira Gershwin song, “The Man I Love”. There is a moment in the last verse of that song where McGarry merely “sighs” across a couple of words attaching them with that ghostly glissando in such a spectacular fashion that it might cause the faint-hearted to simply pass out with aching joy. The singer’s intonation reaches the heights of perfection that are rarely matched by other vocalists. McGarry makes the song her own in a manner that is so rare that the song appears to have been written just for her. The vocalist does something similar to that on Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk” as well. Here McGarry also shows herself to be a magnificent storyteller. She brings the characters in the song alive as she narrates the story of a secret kitty party. Moreover McGarry’s femininity is put on graceful display as she allows the listener to take a peep into the world of girl talk. Of course she does the same in “We Kiss In A Shadow,” but in that song there is an ache that is not present on “Girl Talk”. Women can feel those feeling of pure pain as well as catty joy, but not all of the singers in the vocalising world can find the nuanced brilliance with which to separate the clawing scratch from the gasping ache.

It is also appropriate to mention here that the group that has been assembled to accompany McGarry is one of exceeding brilliance and performs with such ecstasy that it makes sense to confer on this album the label of true memorability. Guitarist Keith Ganz is a revelation and his work on “Looking Back” is of a singularly superior nature. The tone of and expression on his guitar is something that cannot be easily forgotten. Of course Ganz displays good taste and a marvellous ability to manipulate the dynamics of his guitars each time he plays the assortment of instruments that he brings to this set. Keyboard artist, Gary Versace is also in remarkable form throughout and his skill on the organ is surely one of absolute ingenuity. His accompaniment on “The Man I Love” is far and away the high point of the record. Bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Clarence Penn not only play an ingenious melodic and harmonic role, but also create an anchor for the rest of the ensemble to pivot playfully. Both men are sublime colourists as well and create glorious colours from a magical palette.

Kurt Elling is masterful on “O Cantador,” Dori Caymmi and Nelson Motta’s difficult song. Both vocalists fall short of the perfect Portuguese enunciation and intonation and the pronunciation begins to become slightly laboured. But then the great Nat “King” Cole made a virtue of it when he recorded his legendary Latin records. So all is forgiven here as well and it is possible to forget the enunciation and enjoy this song as well; just as it is possible to enjoy this record over and over again.

Tracks: We Kiss In A Shadow; Girl Talk; I Just Found Out About Love; The Man I Love; O Cantador; This Heart Of Mine; I Know That You Know; Looking Back; Charade; It’s A Wonderful World.

Personnel: Kate McGarry: vocal; Keith Ganz: guitars; Gary Versace: piano, organ; Reuben Rogers: bass; Clarence Penn: drums; Kurt Elling: vocal (5).

Kate McGarry – Official Website: www.katemcgarry.com

Label: Palmetto Records

Release date: April 2012

Reviewed by: Raul da Gama

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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