Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace – The Subject Tonight Is Love
(Binxtown Records. Review by Peter Bacon)
Against a sumptuous cushion of piano from Gary Versace and ringing guitar from Keith Ganz, vocalist Kate McGarry recites the words of 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz:
The subject tonight is love
And for tomorrow night as well
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Until we all
Discuss? Seriously? Maybe it loses something in translation. Thankfully, McGarry’s idea of a discussion involves not a round-table committee meeting but an impeccable choice of songs about love in a wide range of meanings, from a rich diversity of sources, and conveyed with a broad palette of styles by three musicians who have developed their three-way skill over more than a decade.
So we get standards like the all-too-rarely covered Secret Love, the possibly far-too-commonly covered My Funny Valentine and the always welcome Gone With The Wind and What A Difference A Day Made. But interspersed with these we get a McGarry original like the dark country of Climb Down, the sublime Benny Golson/Kenny Doreham composition Fair Weather, a blissful Egberto Gismonti tune with added lyrics, even a Beatles song for the epilogue. McGarry identifies the various takes on love in the CD’s liner notes: “courageous love”, “tribal love”, “fleeting love”, “fractured love”, “love thy neighbour”, etc.
That’s the material, but what of the cutting, the stitching, the finishing. Well, “wow!”, in a word. But, of course the music reviewer must offer more than an expression of amazement, something more articulate than a dropped jaw at such apparently lightly-worn artistry, a tear welling in the eye at the heart-tugging beauty of it all, and a chill rising on the back of the neck at the magic that results from this kind of interactive musicianship.
If you want to experience all those things at once, then may I recommend Fair Weather, and in particular the reprise? McGarry has prepared us with an initially stately reading which as it progresses turns into something more intimate, its climax a high, breathy note that she extends into a bell-like tone, then adds a vibrato at the death. Versace’s piano and Ganz’s strummed acoustic guitar are beautifully spaced in between her lines, then Versace takes McGarry’s mood and stretches it across a finely articulated solo with Ganz in support before the roles are expertly reversed. And then comes that even more magical return, with all three taking more freedom while staying in perfect formation. “Hate will die and love will win,” sings McGarry and the sheer three-way freedom/cohesion of the trio’s music feels unassailable. “Heroes” is the high spine-tingler but throughout one marvels at McGarry’s continual variation of tone, timbre, how each note and syllable is phrased, each given particular attention while maintaining the big-picture interpretation and flow.
That’s just one meticulous performance among 12 – this is an album without low points, without any lapses of concentration. And, in the face of any anticipatory scepticism, My Funny Valentine is, of course, a completely refreshing triumph.
There are 61 minutes of music on this CD – each is one to treasure for years and years to come.
Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz and Gary Versace will be playing the Rochester Jazz Festival in Rochester NY on Wednesday 27 June.